Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota and Government Corruption Bureau Chief Christopher McPartland Each Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
The Defendants Were Convicted of Obstructing a Federal Civil Rights Investigation
Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota and Christopher McPartland, the former Chief of Investigations and Chief of the Government Corruption Bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office (SCDAO), were each sentenced today by United States District Judge Joan M. Azrack, to five years in prison. Additionally, Spota was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
The sentences stem from the defendants’ December 17, 2019 convictions, following a six-week federal jury trial, on all four counts of the Indictment; specifically, of conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and obstruct an official proceeding, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and being accessories after-the-fact to former Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) Chief of Department James Burke’s deprivation of a prisoner’s civil rights.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Jacqueline Maguire, Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the sentences.
“When a sitting District Attorney and one of his top prosecutors are corrupt and use their power to intimidate witnesses and cover up a brutal assault by a high-ranking law enforcement official, they not only jeopardize the safety of citizens who are entitled to the protection of the law, they also undermine confidence in the integrity and fairness of our criminal justice system,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “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. With today’s sentences, justice has been served and the defendants have learned the consequences of their crimes, just like anyone else who has broken the law. I commend the tenacity and skill of this Office's prosecutors and the FBI special agents in toppling the defendants from their undeserved positions of prominence and in holding them to account for their reprehensible violations of the public trust.”
“With great power comes great responsibility – and, as we’ve proven throughout the course of this investigation, Mr. Spota and Mr. McPartland abused their power to skirt their responsibility to comply with a federal civil rights investigation. They placed fear of retaliation inside the minds of those who may otherwise have been willing to cooperate, and they interfered with efforts of federal investigators who were trying to get to the bottom of a heinous crime. Their behavior was outrageous, and their sentences today prove as much. There is absolutely no place for this type of behavior within our criminal justice system. Those who abuse their power and subject others to cruel and unnecessary punishment must be removed from serving in any official capacity and must pay the price for their conduct. Only then, and with today's sentences, the earned trust and confidence of the citizens of Suffolk County can be justly restored, stated FBI Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge Maguire.
In December 2012, then-Chief of the SCPD, James Burke – the highest-ranking uniformed police official in Suffolk County – physically and verbally assaulted a shackled prisoner, Christopher Loeb, who was under arrest and being held in an interrogation room at the 4th Precinct in Hauppauge, New York. Loeb 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. After the assault, Burke ordered high-ranking lieutenants of the SCPD to ensure that the detectives and officers who had witnessed the assault would never reveal what they had observed. Burke also enlisted the help of his long-time mentor, then-District Attorney Spota, and McPartland, his personal friend and then-Chief of both Investigations and the Government Corruption Bureau, to ensure that the witnesses kept quiet. Having served as the Suffolk County D.A. for over a decade, Spota had successfully helped Burke avoid legal trouble regularly during their decades-long friendship. McPartland, who worked directly under Spota, also had built a close friendship with Burke, and was the first person who Burke called the morning he discovered that his vehicle had been burglarized.
A federal grand jury investigation into the Loeb assault as a civil rights deprivation was opened by the U.S. Attorney’s Brooklyn Office, with the assistance of the FBI, in the spring of 2013. Burke, Spota and McPartland used the power and influence of their official positions, and the threat of retaliatory arrest and prosecution, to keep anyone from cooperating with that investigation. Because of their obstructive efforts, the federal investigation was unsuccessful and was closed approximately eight months later. Local law enforcement eyewitnesses had been frightened into silence, as they feared retaliation against themselves and their families from within the Suffolk County Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office. Approximately one year later, prosecutors from U.S. Attorney’s Long Island Criminal Division reopened the investigation. As certain key witnesses were then compelled to testify before the grand jury under a grant of immunity, the truth about Burke assaulting Loeb finally emerged.
Burke pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice in February 2016 and was sentenced to 46 months’ imprisonment. Spota and McPartland both resigned from the District Attorney’s Office in light of the charges against them and have since been disbarred.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole Boeckmann, Lara Treinis Gatz, Justina L. Geraci and Michael R. Maffei are in charge of the prosecution.
THOMAS J. SPOTA
Mount Sinai, New York
Northport, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CR-587 (JMA)