Mixed verdict in Nassau police influence trial
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A former Nassau police commander accused of misusing his position to prevent his friend's son from being arrested was found guilty Friday night of a third misdemeanor charge -- but not guilty of a felony -- mere moments before a judge was set to declare a mistrial.
Former Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan was also found guilty Thursday of two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.
After a day of deliberations Friday during which jurors continually said they were deadlocked on the remaining two counts, they announced at about 7:30 p.m. that they found Flanagan guilty of a third misdemeanor, conspiracy, but not guilty of the only felony he was charged with, receiving an award for official misconduct.
Flanagan could face up to a year in jail on the misdemeanors when he is sentenced May 1. If he had been convicted of the top charge, he would have faced up to 4 years in prison.
Moments before the jury announced its verdict in the high-profile case that has pitted Nassau's top prosecutors against some of its top current and former police brass, State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen had been ready to declare a mistrial.
But just as Cohen was getting ready to call jurors into the courtroom to dismiss them, the court clerk passed him a note saying there was a verdict. An audible gasp was heard in the courtroom.
Flanagan, 55, looked calm and composed as he waited in the silent courtroom for the verdict. Afterward, he said, "This isn't over," and vowed to appeal.
"The jury took care of the felony; the appellate courts are going to take care of the misdemeanor," said Flanagan's lawyer, Bruce Barket of Garden City. "He did nothing wrong."
Prosecutors say Flanagan improperly used his influence to get police to return electronics equipment to John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore in 2009 after Zachary Parker, son of police benefactor Gary Parker, stole it.
Gary Parker repaid the favor by giving Flanagan two $100 gift cards to Morton's steak house and a state-of-the-art flashlight, prosecutor Bernadette Ford said in her summation.
Two other former police officials, retired Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Seventh Precinct Squad Deputy Supervisor Alan Sharpe, are awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges.
Despite the mixed verdict in Flanagan's case, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said justice was done.
"This case has always been about making sure that there isn't one set of rules for the wealthy and connected, and another set for everyone else," Rice said in a statement.
Afterward, one juror said he believes the conspiracy went "way above" Flanagan. But he said the jury didn't believe there was enough evidence to convict Flanagan of the felony charge. "We [jurors] are proud of the county we serve," said Tom Lacalamita of Farmingdale. "But clearly something was amiss here."
At trial Barket argued it was not illegal for police to return stolen property to the owner, and that there was no evidence that Flanagan asked anyone not to arrest Zachary Parker.
Zachary Parker was never arrested by police, but prosecutors later presented his case to a grand jury, which indicted him. He later pleaded guilty to burglary charges and is serving 1 to 3 years in prison.