Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota to leave office

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota to leave office
Liz Cho has the latest on the resignation of the Suffolk County District Attorney.

SUFFOLK COUNTY, Long Island (WABC) -- Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has announced his intention to retire after 16 years in office. a day after being charged in an assault cover-up case.

Spota issued a written statement on Wednesday afternoon:

"I will be leaving my post as District Attorney at the earliest opportunity after the resolution of normal administrative matters relating to my retirement. The Governor will be notified of my decision today. The Chief Assistant District Attorney, Emily Constant, will thereafter assume my duties and responsibilities."

Spota, 76, and Christopher McPartland, 51, the head of the district attorney's political corruption unit, were taken into custody by the FBI on Wednesday.

They are both charged with taking part in the cover-up of former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke's assault of a suspect, Christopher Loeb, in 2012.

They're facing charges of tampering with witnesses, witness tampering, obstruction of justice and deprivation of civil rights.

Spota entered a plea of not guilty during an afternoon court appearance. His bail was set at $500,000.

Alan Vinegrad, a former federal prosecutor who is Spota's attorney, said after the arraignment that his client "categorically denies the government's charges, and he looks forward to vindicating himself in court."

In a statement, McPartland's lawyer said his client vehemently denies the charges. His status with the district attorney's office was not immediately known Thursday.

Spota's announcement comes as a growing bipartisan list of officials in the county called for the prosecutor to step down. Spota had previously said he is not seeking re-election next month.

Last year, Burke was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for orchestrating a department cover-up after beating a handcuffed man for stealing embarrassing items from his department-issued SUV. Burke was a longtime protege of Spota's and once worked as an investigator in the district attorney's office before being named chief of the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest suburban departments in the country with 2,500 officers.

As a child, Burke was the key witness in a murder trial of a boy in a case prosecuted by Spota, who was then an assistant district attorney.

In a presentencing letter, prosecutors said "high-ranking officials" from other county agencies helped Burke silence potential whistleblowers after he pummeled a heroin addict who had taken his gun belt, ammunition, a box of cigars and a bag containing sex toys and pornography.

Officers subpoenaed by FBI agents investigating the 2012 beating were interrogated afterward about whether they had talked, prosecutors said. Unnamed co-conspirators had warned some that if they admitted wrongdoing, their union would not pay their legal fees, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, Spota, McPartland, Burke and other police officers had numerous meetings and telephone conversations discussing the assault of John Doe and how to conceal Burke's role in the assault.

The defendants used their authority "to obstruct and attempt to obstruct the federal investigation by, among other means, using intimidation, threats and corrupt persuasion to pressure multiple witnesses, including co-conspirators, not to cooperate with the federal investigation, to provide false information, including false testimony under oath, and to withhold relevant information to prosecutors," the court paper said.


Some information from the Associated Press