Key witness says he had conversations with Spota, McPartland about Burke cover-up
The government's key witness took the stand Tuesday in the obstruction of justice trial of former Suffolk Distirct Attorney Thomas Spota and his top aide Christopher McPartland.
Lt. James Hickey, who is now retired from the force, was the first person to testify that he had direct conversations with Spota and McPartland about covering up the beating of Christopher Loeb by former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke.
Burke was accused of beating suspect Loeb in December 2012 after Loeb stole Burke's duffle bag that contained his gun belt and pornography.
Hickey testified that he had numerous meetings with Spota, McPartland and Burke, and was told, "We need to keep Burke out of jail. We all know Burke did it."
Hickey said he became the "middleman" tasked with making sure the other Suffolk detectives who took part in the Loeb beating would keep quiet and lie for Burke. He said that police union officials were in on it too, looking out for Burke's interest.
Hickey also testified about the tremendous pressure he felt to conspire, saying that Burke even showed up at his mother's wake to ask him whether everyone under his command was "holding up" and keeping quiet.
"Spota, Burke and McPartland would constantly tell me I need to keep my guys in line, in check and report back up any change in that situation,” said Hickey.
There was also testimony about Legislator Rob Trotta . In 2012, he was still a Suffolk police detective and Hickey said there was panic when Trotta started asking questions about the assault. Hickey said Spota and McPartland referred to Trotta as a "dangerous guy" who would "pick through your garbage" and could get his friends in federal law enforcement to investigation.
Trotta said outside the Central Islip Courthouse, “I take…pride in being called a dangerous man in Suffolk County because, clearly, these are criminals. They've polluted the entire police department. They've polluted the entire Suffolk County government.”
Trotta added, “What's concerning to me is the police union officials that may still be employed by Suffolk County that are continuing to pollute the political system in this county.”
In their opening statements, the defense team worked to discredit Hickey saying he had memory problems because he drank a lot and was hospitalized at one point with hallucinations.
Hickey will be cross examined next week.