Prosecutors: Spota, McPartland abused public trust to protect ‘crooked cop friend’
Opening statements were heard Thursday morning in the obstruction of justice trial against former Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota and his top aide Christopher McPartland.
In a packed Central Islip courtroom, prosecutors said they have cellphone records, proof of secret meetings and a key witness - former Suffolk Police Lt. James Hickey – who they say has direct knowledge that Spota and McPartland worked to cover up then-Police Chief James Burke's beating of suspect Christopher Loeb.
Prosecutors said Spota, McPartland and Burke used Lt. Hickey to coerce other police department members to keep quiet about Loeb's beating. Prosecutors said then-Chief of Detectives William Madigan was a "spy" to make sure that Hickey was doing what he should. Prosecutors said, "McPartland was the architect of the lies, helped Burke create a narrative" and Spota would often pressure Hickey about whether other officers were keeping quiet amid the federal investigation.
In an opening statement, the defense told jurors that Hickey was a "severe alcoholic" who, in 2013 and 2015, was hospitalized, suffered from hallucinations, paranoia, and couldn't be trusted to remember anything.
Hickey's attorney said the defense was making “ludicrous accusations.”
“I've spent countless hours with James Hickey. He's not mentally ill…His memory is probably better than any client that I can remember,” says Edward Sapone.
It's not yet clear when Hickey will testify. Prosecutors have acknowledged that he has already pleaded guilty to his role in the cover-up. The defense said he's testifying against Spota and McPartland in hopes that he will get a lesser sentence.
Burke has already served federal time after pleading guilty to beating Loeb and violating his civil rights. Loeb was in court Thursday.
“I came to seek justice, to know what I'm up against,” he said.