CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — A former Long Island prosecutor was sentenced to 5 years in prison on Tuesday for helping cover up the police beating of a prisoner suspected of stealing sex toys and other items from a police chief’s vehicle.
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, saying, “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.
According to prosecutors, then-Police Chief James Burke assaulted a shackled prisoner who was under arrest and being held in an interrogation room in 2012 at precinct in Hauppauge, New York. The prisoner “had broken into Burke’s official police vehicle and stolen his gun belt and ammunition, and a duffel bag containing cigars, sex toys, prescription Viagra and pornography,” the prosecutors said.
After the assault, the chief ordered high-ranking commanders to make sure “officers who had witnessed the assault would never reveal what they had observed,” prosecutors said. He also recruited Spota, a ”long-time mentor” and McPartland, a personal friend who was chief of investigations and of an anti-corruption bureau, to join the scheme, they added.
At trial, an officer testifying as a key government witness linked Spota and McPartland directly to the conspiracy describing a 2015 meeting in Spota’s office that came after federal officials relaunched a probe into the beating. Spota demanded the officer find out if anyone in their sphere had “flipped,” he testified.
“Somebody’s talking. You better find out fast, if it’s not too late,” Spota said, according to the testimony.
Burke pleaded guilty in 2016 and was sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison. He was released to home confinement after serving most of his sentence.