Thomas Spota convicted of cover-up attack in James Burke prison

The disgraced former New York prosecutor who helped cover up the beating of a man who stole items including a gym bag with sex toys from a local police chief – whose name was dragged in the unsolved Long Island serial killer case – was sentenced to five years in prison this week.

Thomas Spota, 79, and his senior collaborator Christopher McPartland, 55, were sentenced to their sentence on Tuesday by a federal judge following their December 2019 convictions for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and violations civil rights related to a widespread cover-up of the beating of a suspected thief by Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke in 2012. Spota was also fined $ 100,000.

“It was not momentary moral misconduct but years of criminal cover-up,” US District Judge Joan Azrack said during sentencing Tuesday.

Spota told Azrack his prosecution was the lowest point in his life and that he believed it would be his legacy after a long career as a respected prosecutor. The septuagenarian said he hoped he would not “die alone in prison”. Prosecutors arranged for the pair to spend eight years behind bars, telling the court that by covering the crime from a high-ranking police officer they were doing “the exact opposite” of their job.

In 2012, Long Island resident Christopher Loeb was arrested after being charged with breaking into Burke’s SUV and stealing his gun belt, ammunition and a gym bag. containing “cigars, sex toys, prescription Viagra and pornography,” prosecutors. noted.

After learning of Loeb’s arrest, federal authorities say Burke rushed to the police station where he found Loeb “handcuffed, hunched over and handcuffed to the ground” and started beating him. The chief “violently shook Loeb’s head, hit him on the head and body and attempted to bring Loeb to his knees,” court documents say. He then ordered several high-ranking commanders of the Suffolk County Police Department to ensure that “the officers who witnessed the assault would never reveal what they observed”.

Spota was enlisted in the plot at this point, along with McPartland, who was then the head of investigations of an anti-corruption bureau. At trial, an officer testified for the government about a 2015 meeting at the Spota office, where he explained that when federal investigators began investigating Loeb’s beating for the second time, Spota told him asked if anyone who was aware of the attack had “reversed.” “

“Someone is talking. You better find out quickly, if it’s not too late, ”Spota said, the officer said.

Burke, a longtime protégé of Spota, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to depriving someone of their civil rights and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Amid the cover-up, Burke linked himself to the ongoing “Long Island Serial Killer” case, which involves the murders of at least 10 people, mostly sex workers, who were found dead on Long Island on a period of almost 20 years. . This includes the so-called “Gilgo Four” young women, whose bodies were found in late 2010 within a quarter of a mile of each other near Gilgo Beach on the south shore of Long Island.

Right after Burke began her sentence in December 2016, a 30-year-old woman identified as Leanne came forward at a press conference where she claimed Burke had paid her for sex during a house party in the same neighborhood where victim Shannan Gilbert had disappeared. She said she saw Burke at a cocaine-fueled party in Oak Beach in June 2011, where she “observed [Burke] pull a woman by the hair on the ground, ”according to the New York Post.

A lawyer representing Gilbert’s family, whose body was found in 2011, told the press conference that this was the first time Burke had been linked to the area and to prostitution. Burke’s attorney, Joseph Conway, responded by saying that “the allegations that James Burke was involved in the Gilgo Beach murders are completely outrageous.”

As head of the SCPD, Burke had been involved in the Gilgo Beach investigations and, in fact, fired Suffolk County Detective Chief Dominic Varrone in late 2011 – just two days after Gilbert’s body was discovered. Varrone told New York station PIX11 in 2019 he thought it had hampered the investigation, calling his dismissal “a bit of a blow with a stick”.

Nonetheless, Varrone said he didn’t think Burke should be considered a suspect in the LISK murders.

“I don’t think the killer would reside in Oak Beach and remove the bodies so close,” Varrone said. “This is a dump area. “

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