Police benefactor Gary Parker said in court Thursday that he now regrets the persistent efforts he made in 2009 to keep his teenage son Zachary from being arrested on burglary charges.
Zachary Parker is serving 1 to 3 years in an upstate prison despite his father's appeals to three high-ranking police commanders, all of whom are accused of helping the teen duck the charges and now face criminal prosecutions.
"Looking back, would it be fair to say your son maybe should have been arrested in 2009?" asked Bruce Barket, a lawyer for William Flanagan, the former second deputy police commissioner accused of improperly using his influence to help Zachary Parker.
"Yes," Gary Parker said on the stand, closing his eyes and sitting silent for several seconds.
Gary Parker, whose four-day testimony ended Thursday afternoon, is perhaps the most important witness in Flanagan's trial. According to prosecutors, Flanagan improperly used his authority to get stolen electronics equipment returned to the school -- something Gary Parker believed at the time would convince the school not to press criminal charges in the case. Parker testified that the day after he learned police had returned the stolen equipment, his wife sent Flanagan $200 worth of steakhouse gift cards and a state-of-the-art flashlight.
Police never arrested Zachary Parker for stealing more than $10,000 in equipment from John F. Kennedy High School in Baldwin in 2009, but prosecutors later presented the case to a grand jury, which indicted him. Even after the teen caught another break, getting youthful offender status and a sentence of no jail time in the case, he was rearrested for driving on a suspended license. That time, a Nassau judge sentenced him to upstate prison.
Barket, of Garden City, asked Parker if he had hoped at one point that his son would go into law enforcement. Prosecutor Bernadette Ford objected to the question, and Acting Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen sustained it before Parker could answer.
Barket then asked Parker if he had hoped his friends in law enforcement would not find out about his son's crime, so that his philanthropic connections to Nassau police and other law enforcement agencies would not be jeopardized. Again, Ford objected and Cohen sustained her objection.
Finally, Barket asked the question that best sums up Flanagan's position in the case, namely that the former commander committed no crime, but merely returned stolen property.
"At no time did you ask him to break the law?" Barket asked. Ford objected again, and Parker was not allowed to answer.