Flanagan case raises questions about corruption

William Flanagan at Nassau County Courthouse as the William Flanagan at Nassau County Courthouse as the jury deliberated in Mineola. (Feb. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

The conviction of former Nassau police commander William Flanagan on misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and conspiracy marks a betrayal of the public he had sworn to serve.

Yes, Flanagan was acquitted on the most serious charge -- receiving an award for official misconduct -- arising from allegations that he misused his position to keep a friend's son from being arrested.

But that just raises the question of why shielding a burglary suspect because his father is a friend -- and police benefactor -- isn't more than a misdemeanor.

Flanagan was convicted on allegations that he used his influence to get police to return thousands of dollars of electronics equipment to John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore in 2009 rather than arrest Zachary Parker, son of police benefactor Gary Parker, who had stolen it.

The school's principal wanted Zachary Parker arrested. But according to trial testimony, there wasn't a serious investigation and police didn't ask for surveillance tape footage showing Parker on the premises.

When one of Zachary Parker's friends dropped stolen equipment off at a police precinct, it never was logged. Instead, it was moved to another precinct where, again, it was not logged.

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During closing arguments last week, a prosecutor talked to jurors about emails and telephone logs that showed Flanagan and Parker's father were in frequent communication.

Parker was never arrested by police. Instead, he was indicted when prosecutors, tipped by a story in the Long Island Press, took the case to a grand jury. Parker would later plead guilty to burglary charges and now is serving a prison term.

Two other former Nassau police officials, retired Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Seventh Precinct Squad Deputy Supervisor Alan Sharpe, are awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges in the case too.

Flanagan is not the first Long Island officer to betray the public's trust. In 2004, a Suffolk police officer pleaded guilty to official misconduct for improperly writing moving violations for cars that were parked.

In 2011, a Nassau officer pleaded guilty to official misconduct for forcing a woman to touch him in a sexual manner during a traffic stop. And in 2012, a Nassau officer pleaded guilty to causing a crash while on duty in an unmarked police car two years earlier and then fleeing the scene.

What sets the case of Flanagan, a former second deputy commissioner, apart is his high rank. And how, according to prosecutors, the handling of Parker's case reached into two precincts and pulled in other officers -- some of whom, to the department's credit, refused to participate.

Flanagan has friends and influence too. Retired Nassau police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, Flanagan's former boss, and Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) were among those who came to court to support him.

But one juror said the panel believed that the conspiracy to protect the younger Parker reached even higher than Flanagan. "Clearly something was amiss here," the juror said.

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Indeed, corruption, even as a misdemeanor, is unacceptable.

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