Ex-prosecutor sentenced to 5 years in suspect abuse scandal

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — A former Long Island prosecutor convicted of helping cover up the police beating of a prisoner accused to stealing sex toys from a police chief’s vehicle was sentenced Tuesday to 5 years in prison.

Thomas Spota and one his top aides in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, Christopher McPartland, were convicted in December 2019 on counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and civil rights violations.

“I hope not to die in prison alone,” the 79-year-old Spota told U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack before hearing his penalty, Newsday reported.

The once-respected law enforcement official also called his conviction “the lowest point” in his life and said he feared and expected it would be his legacy, Newsday said.

Azrack also gave McPartland a 5 years behind bars, “This was not a momentary moral lapse but years of criminal coverup,” according to Newsday. In addition, the judge ordered Spota to pay a $100,000 fine.

In a statement, acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said the defendants had undermined the public’s faith in the criminal justice system.

“Instead of serving the people of Suffolk County, these defendants brazenly abused their exceptional positions of power and public trust to protect their friends and hurt their enemies,” Kasulis said.

Prosecutors had argued the men deserved 8 years behind bars for doing “the exact opposite” of their jobs in the face of a scandal that eventually engulfed the county’s law enforcement power structure. Lawyers for Spoto and McPartland, 55, had said home confinement was a more appropriate sentence.

The police chief, James Burke, pleaded guilty in 2016 to charges accusing him of punching a handcuffed man suspected of stealing the sex toys, pornography and other items from his department SUV. At a later federal trial, jurors heard testimony that Spota and McPartland conspired to protect Burke by ensuring the silence of the three officers who committed the assault with Burke at a Hauppauge police precinct.

Burke was sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison and was released to home confinement after serving most of his sentence.

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