Trial date set for ex-Suffolk police chief

The U.S. Attorney says Burke deserves the 'high end' or maximum sentence for beating a suspect.

The U.S. Attorney says Burke deserves the 'high end' or maximum sentence for beating a suspect. (1/6/16)

CENTRAL ISLIP - The trial date has been set for the former Suffolk police chief accused of beating up a suspect and then trying to cover it up.

James Burke showed up Wednesday to his first court appearance since a federal judge denied him bail last month. He was wearing beige prison garb and was completely cleanshaven.

His trial will begin on March 21.

Burke stands accused of assaulting suspect Christopher Loeb in 2012. Prosecutors say Loeb had stolen a duffle bag containing pornography and sex toys from Burke's department SUV.

According to prosecutors, Burke drove to Loeb's house to retrieve the bag after he was identified as the suspect. He then allegedly "punched and kicked Loeb in the head and body" after Loeb was taken to a nearby precinct. Prosecutors said Burke, "together with other members" of the Suffolk County Police Department, tried to cover up the assault.

Burke will remain behind bars until his trial begins. His attorney Joseph Conway did not appeal the decision to withhold bail, saying it would just delay the process.

"When you look at the case law in the circuit we're in, it's very difficult to overturn a judge's decision, so we're opting to putting our resources to a quick and speedy trial," says Conway.

Burke could face more than five years in prison, if convicted.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, Burke will receive a payment from the county of more than $434,000 for his unused sick and vacation time. The state is still calculating the exact amount of his pension.


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