As Gary Melius recovers in hospital, DA stops visits
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The large number of visitors to Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius' hospital room and the kinds of detailed questions some asked about a failed attempt on his life led Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota last week to ask Melius' family to ban visitors and telephone calls.
"I saw too many elected and other officials, like you wouldn't usually see in a situation like this, and a lot from Nassau County, like a former senator, the county executive, the sheriff, the head of the police department," Spota said in an interview Friday.
"Some of the visitors were asking Gary very specific questions about the shooting that were, in my view, improper and we stopped all visitors," he said.
Spota said Melius and his family were cooperative and decided to stop visitors and telephone calls.
Even at that, "I have been told that at least one or two individuals still tried to get in and they were stopped by police and asked to leave."
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Peter King did pay a short visit to Melius. "My understanding is that Mr. Melius, as is his right, said he wanted the congressman to come in and there is nothing we can do if that is what he wants," Spota said.
One potential issue, Spota said, is that some of Melius' visitors have shared information that is inaccurate.
Or that, perhaps, investigators did not wish released.
Suffolk County police, who are investigating the case, last week declined to specify the number, type or location of injuries Melius received.
King told reporters Friday that Melius was in great spirits -- and that he was wearing a bandage on his left eye, the first public confirmation of an injury near the eye.
Melius' visitors last week included both county executives, Steve Bellone of Suffolk and Edward Mangano of Nassau. Mangano visited several times.
Other visitors included at least two judges, the Nassau County sheriff and former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato -- who, hours after the shooting, called it an "attempted assassination." The acting Nassau police commissioner visited too. The last county police commissioner had to step down in a scandal set off by a telephone call from Melius.
According to one estimate, some 40 visitors had streamed to Melius' hospital room within a few hours early last week.
Melius' extraordinary draw -- some of his visitors have been saying all week -- lies in his generosity and popularity; and in the wide web of political and business contacts he's built over the years.
A Newsday story about a fallout between Melius and a business associate, John Ruocco, last week illustrates the depth of those connections.
According to the report, the pair entered into a consulting deal in which Melius would gain 2.8 million shares of Ruocco's ignition-locking device company in exchange for Melius' pledge that he would help the firm win public contracts -- by getting laws passed that would require use of technology Ruocco's Interceptor device could provide.
According to a court document in the case, one such law passed in Suffolk in 2010.
There's no doubt Melius has friends; and he's also made enemies, including at least one willing to make an attempt on his life.
For now, as investigators continue scouring through Melius' business and other connections, he remains under police protection.
And Spota -- who on Friday declined to give even a snippet more of new information on the case -- said he intended to speak to the family again about all of those high-powered visitors.