Nassau detective testifies at Flanagan trial

Former Nassau Deputy Police Commissioner William Flanagan leaves Former Nassau Deputy Police Commissioner William Flanagan leaves the Nassau County Court after hearing testimony in his misconduct trial in Mineola. (Jan. 24, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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A Nassau detective testifying in the William Flanagan police misconduct trial Thursday told prosecutors he was following procedure when he refused to return stolen equipment to a Bellmore high school unless the principal agreed not to press charges against the thief.

Prosecutors have said this was part of a plan by Det. John Vasturino's superiors to pressure John F. Kennedy Principal Lorraine Poppe, who needed her equipment back, to end the investigation.

But Vasturino told prosecutors he met with Poppe in June 2009 and she refused to sign the agreement.

"I showed her the withdrawal slip, and she said she didn't want to sign it," Vasturino said of his meeting with Poppe. "I told her I was going to have to take the property back."

Prosecutors say Flanagan, a retired second deputy commissioner, who is on trial on misconduct charges, improperly used his influence to get the equipment returned to Poppe, hoping that would cause her to let Zachary Parker off the hook.

Parker, the son of police benefactor Gary Parker, had stolen the equipment a month earlier.

Police never charged Zachary Parker with the theft, but Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice later presented the case to a grand jury and he was indicted.

He pleaded guilty in March and is serving 1 to 3 years in prison.

On the stand earlier this week, Poppe said she was outraged when Vasturino showed her the form, and felt she was being strong-armed.

During cross examination Thursday, Flanagan's attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City, asked Vasturino whether he was aware of a law that requires police to return property to crime victims within 15 days, if they request it.

Barket holds that Flanagan did nothing but return property to its owner.

Flanagan said he returned it, not because he was friends with Zachary Parker's father, but because it was his job.

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