The judge overseeing the case of three former Nassau police commanders accused of conspiring to scuttle the arrest of a police benefactor's son recused himself from the case Thursday, saying he has a conflict of interest because he is friends with the former police commissioner.
Judge John Kase said in court that he has been friends with former Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey for about five years. Mulvey headed the police department at the time when the three defendants in the case, retired Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan, retired Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Seventh Precinct Squad Deputy Cmdr. Alan Sharpe allegedly took part in the incident.
"I have been in his company at professional as well as social events," Kase said in court. "Therefore, I believe that my presiding over this case could create an appearance of impropriety."
The case was reassigned to Nassau County Court Judge George Peck, who adjourned the case until June 20.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy stemmed from the May 2009 theft of about $11,000 worth of electronic equipment from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore. Zachary Parker, 20, has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.
The indictment says Hunter, Flanagan and Sharpe worked to return the property that Parker had stolen to persuade an administrator at the high school to refrain from pressing charges and to ensure that Parker avoided arrest.
All three men maintain their innocence. In an interview last week, Flanagan told Newsday he only did for Parker what he would have done for any other citizen.
Attorneys for the three defendants say prosecutors did not allow the grand jury to see several emails that show school officials were wavering on whether to press charges against Parker. To find out what happened, they are asking Peck to release the minutes of the grand jury proceeding to them.