In corruption trial, dad says he pleaded with principal

Gary Parker, Zachary Parker's father, takes the stand Gary Parker, Zachary Parker's father, takes the stand at the William Flanagan police misconduct trial in Mineola. (Jan. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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A one-time Nassau police benefactor said he "begged and pleaded" with the principal at his son's high school not to press charges after he discovered the teenager had stolen campus electronics equipment.

Days later, the principal, Lorraine Poppe, indicated she would not pursue the spring 2009 theft case with Nassau police, the benefactor, Gary Parker, said Wednesday during his third day on the stand in the corruption trial of former Second Deputy Police Commissioner William Flanagan. She testified earlier this month that she always wanted the teen arrested.

Parker told Flanagan's attorney Bruce Barket during cross examination that he had gone to see Poppe after confronting his son Zachary over a receipt he found for a storage unit -- where the teen had stashed the stolen equipment, worth nearly $10,000.

Barket is seeking to undercut the prosecution's theory that Flanagan and two other police bosses, whose trials have yet to begin, ignored the principal's demand that the teen, Zachary Parker, be arrested. Flanagan got $200 worth of steakhouse gift cards from the Parkers in exchange for helping, prosecutors have said.

Gary Parker recalled "crying like a baby" after he discovered his son, then 17, had burglarized the school -- and he conceded Wednesday hatching a never-executed plan.

"Your idea was to somehow smuggle it back?" an apparently incredulous Barket asked Parker.

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"I didn't know what else to do," Parker said.

Gary Parker had long been a donor to a foundation benefiting police causes and would often use his access to hobnob with top police brass.

The now-former police supervisors merely facilitated the stolen property's return, their attorneys say.

Nassau police ultimately wouldn't arrest Zachary Parker, but the district attorney office's later did. Now 21, he's serving state prison time on the burglary.

Parker said on the stand that he often paid for dinner or offered gifts to many in Nassau's police leadership as part of friendship: a meatball dinner here, a family barbecue there, another time, an offer of Yankee tickets to Flanagan. Barket said it was all nothing more than the trappings of friendship, not corruption, and the generosity was reciprocal.

Wednesday the parties quibbled over matters profound and picayune, such as whether an email to Parker announcing a retired police commissioner's death delivered the news via a forwarded message, through copy and paste or attachment.

The judge also admonished jurors not to discuss "defense counsel's demeanor and/or volume level" because, after Tuesday's proceedings, several jurors had commented on it.

"Apparently, my voice rises sometimes, and it rose yesterday," Barket said later, chuckling. "I've gone an hour and a half today, and I don't think my voice has risen once."

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