No Bail for Ex-Police Chief Facing Federal Charges

11 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

James Burke arrest marks the latest Suffolk mystery.

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — The former chief of a suburban New York police department accused of beating a suspect in a precinct interrogation room and then coercing officers to lie about it was ordered held without bail Friday. Calling the allegations against him “shocking,” a Long Island federal judge denied bail to a former Suffolk County top cop charged with beating a detainee Friday.Wexler dismissed defense lawyer Joseph Conway’s arguments that Burke is not in a position to intimidate or threaten any witnesses against him in a civil rights indictment handed down this week because he’s no longer the top uniformed cop on the force.Ex-Suffolk police chief James Burke was denied bail Friday, two days after he was arrested on charges of assaulting a handcuffed suspect and conspiring to cover it up during a federal grand jury investigation. “I find the corruption of an entire department by this defendant is shocking,” U.S. Prosecutors pushed hard to keep Burke behind bars and said his alleged reign of intimidation as Suffolk County’s highest-ranking uniformed officer was reminiscent of the Soviet-era KGB.

But seven media outlets, including the Daily News, petitioned the judge to open the hearing because the shocking allegations had already been reported. But it remains to be explained how disciplinary issues raised decades ago, including personal closeness to a known criminal, were overcome to enable Burke, a protégé of District Attorney Thomas Spota, to rise in the ranks. News agencies sent a letter to federal Judge Leonard Wexler in Central Islip (EYE’-slihp) Thursday, challenging his plans to close the hearing to the public.

They argued that Burke relentlessly tried to silence potential witnesses in the case as recently as last month – and that he posed a viable threat to the community. Attorneys James Miskiewicz and Lara Treinis Gatz revealed in court Friday that at least 10 Suffolk police officers are now cooperating with the government.

Nearly five years have passed since the sudden announcement that County Executive Steve Levy wouldn’t seek re-election, and would forfeit his $4.1 million campaign fund in a deal with Spota. Prosecutors said the Smithtown man battered junkie Christopher Loeb in an interrogation room after he broke into his department issue SUV and took several items — including a porn DVD and sex toys. Then, Burke allegedly orchestrated a coverup of the assault, pressuring police witnesses to lie under oath when the feds began investigating the incident. “Burke suspected he would be indicted, and threatened to ‘take everyone’ down with him,” Assistant U.S.

Attorneys Lara Gatz and James Miskiewicz argued in court papers that Burke wanted kept secret. “He (Burke) pleaded with others to remain ‘strong’ and not cooperate with federal authorities,” the prosecutors wrote. “Burke also alluded to private matters affecting the personal lives of SCPD personnel and their families in clear efforts to blackmail them into submission.” James home at dawn Wednesday, when he was handcuffed and taken for booking after a probe by special criminal investigators reporting to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District and the FBI. He and his attorney claim that was the motive for Burke ganging up with other Suffolk County officers and beating Loeb at the police precinct station house following the arrest. The theft suspect, Christopher Loeb, was arrested after someone broke into the chief’s department-issued SUV in 2012 and made off with a gun belt, handcuffs, magazines of ammunition, a box of cigars, humidor and a canvas bag that contained, among other items, sex toys and video pornography, authorities said.

Burke.” In remanding Burke on Wednesday, Wexler said he was concerned that the assertions in the bail letter were so prejudicial that they might impede Burke’s chances for a fair trial. Spota said at the time: “While the investigation revealed serious issues with regard to fundraising and the manner in which it was conducted, including the use of public resources, I am confident that Mr. Prosecutors said Burke also abused his authority by entering Loeb’s residence as police searched for evidence, retrieving his canvas bag and other articles and jeopardizing a larceny investigation that victimized many other civilians “solely to retrieve embarrassing articles.” Burke resigned from the force in October after a 31-year career.

Loeb’s attorney, Amy Marion, said, “This indictment is not only about Chris Loeb. it is about covering up an investigation and lying about what happened.” Loeb, called John Doe in the indictment, had been arrested for stealing a duffel bag from Burke’s department SUV that was parked in front of the chief’s home early on Dec. 14, 2012. Levy did not personally profit.” Then there was Suffolk authorities’ handling of a Nassau cop’s controversial shooting of an unarmed cabdriver in Huntington. Last year, a Suffolk grand jury expired without evident activity even as Nassau officials found the ex-officer committed four felonies during the bizarre episode.

It charges that he tampered with evidence, engaged in a cover-up of an automobile accident in which he had been intoxicated, had a retribution list of officers he considered disloyal, and instituted a “climate of fear [in the department]to protect his interests.” Before arraignment Wednesday, Burke’s Mineola attorney, Joseph Conway, “vigorously” denied that “there was, is, ever has been a cover-up” or that his client had done anything untoward. Burke’s arrest and arraignment came nearly three years to the day after the alleged 2012 assault on Loeb and one day after the grand jury indictment was handed down.

The indictment says that Burke, “together with others, while acting under color of the laws of the United States, did knowingly and willfully deprive John Doe of a right and privilege secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States,” referring to the right of due process, “which includes the right to be free from excessive force.” The indictment also says that Burke, “together with others, did knowingly, intentionally and corruptly conspire to obstruct, influence and impede an official proceeding,” referring to the federal investigation. Despite videotape surveillance, a $100,000 reward offer, and identification of the getaway vehicle as an older-model Jeep Cherokee, the case appears to grow cold.

The biggest and most disturbing local riddle of all involves the grisly discovery, starting five years ago, of the remains of 11 people along Ocean Parkway. Several dozen officers were present at Loeb’s home or the Fourth Precinct when Loeb alleged officers first beat him at home and then officers and Burke beat him at the precinct.

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