RIVERHEAD, Long Island (WABC) --The former chief of the Suffolk County Police Department pleaded guilty to charges of deprivation of civil rights and obstruction of justice Friday morning.
Burke pleaded not guilty in December after being accused of beating a man who broke into his police cruiser in 2012 and then trying to hide the alleged assault.
Burke is expected to be sentenced to 51 months in prison, according to a plea deal with the US Attorney. He will then have three years post-supervised release and pay a $250,000 fine. There is no requirement for his cooperation in other cases or to testify against anyone else.
Here is the full text of Burke's plea statement:
"On December 14, 2012, I was the Chief of the Suffolk County Police Department. On that day I went to the 4th precinct in Suffolk County. At that time, I entered a room with others and encountered an individual who had been arrested earlier that morning on suspicion of burglarizing motor vehicles, including my own vehicle. At that time I, along with others willfully used unreasonable force and slapped and hit this individual causing bodily injury. Thereafter, from approximately December 14, 2012 to December 2015 I was aware that there was a Grand Jury Investigation regarding the violation of Civil Rights being conducted by the United States Attorney's Office. I and others did knowingly and intentionally conspire and took affirmative steps to obstruct, including conspiring with other participants not to cooperate with the investigation, so that the grand jury and the United States Attorney's Office would not find out the true events of December 14, 2012."
Prosecutors will say only that the investigation has widened and that it's not over.
"Our investigation is ongoing," the US attorney said. "We will seek to hold accountable anyone who violates another's civil rights or attempts to obstruct justice."
But defense attorneys insist that the plea deal is not a cooperation agreement.
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. Loeb later pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and was sentenced to three years in prison; he was released last summer.
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." And from there, they said, it only got worse. Prosecutors painted a miserable picture of a man who thought he had the power to beat up Loeb in front of at least three officers, then allegedly suggest that they give Loeb, a heroin addict, a so-called "hot shot," which is a deadly mix of heroin.
"And somebody has to say, 'obviously we're not doing that,' right?" she said. "'We'll cover up the beating for you but, hot shot? We don't know."
Conway argued that Loeb's account was less than credible.
"You're talking about a man who is a two-time convicted felon, admitted heroin dealer, who did not make allegations that day that he was beaten up by anybody," he said.
But new allegations against Burke kept coming, including one that he brazenly sent a group text to 10 other cops asking them to cover up the case, and that he somehow Burke had access to secret grand jury deliberations in the case.
Burke resigned from the force in October after a 31-year career. Before being named chief in 2012, he worked as an investigator for the Suffolk County district attorney.