Principal faces cross-exam in Flanagan misconduct case

Lorraine Poppe, Principal of JFK High School in Lorraine Poppe, Principal of JFK High School in Bellmore, arrives at the Nassau County Court to testify during the trial for Former Nassau Deputy Police Commissioner William Flanagan in Mineola. (Jan. 17, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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The defense lawyer for a former top Nassau police commander accused of using his post to prevent a friend's son from being arrested hammered away at a key prosecution witness Tuesday, trying to bring out what he said were inconsistencies in her testimony.

But John F. Kennedy High School Principal Lorraine Poppe held fast to her story that she always wanted the son of a police benefactor arrested.

Over several hours, Bruce Barket, of Garden City, a lawyer for retired Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan, cross-examined Poppe about e-mails she sent to a school administrator and a police official about the investigation into the May 2009 theft of school electronics equipment by student Zachary Parker, the son of a police benefactor.

In the emails, Poppe told police to "put everything on hold" until further notice. Barket argues this proves Poppe was ambivalent about arresting Parker, and that she -- not Flanagan - effectively stopped his arrest.

On the stand, Poppe said while she was exploring a number of options at that time, she was clear she wanted Parker prosecuted. "I thought I was being stonewalled, and I thought the police department was trying to bury the case," Poppe testified Tuesday.

Barket contends Poppe's testimony Tuesday contradicted the emails, her sworn grand jury testimony and several other witnesses. He tried to bring out what he said was another inconsistency; Poppe citing, in the trial, meetings with police that she did not mention in grand jury testimony two years ago.

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Prosecutors say Flanagan, a friend of Gary Parker, abused his authority by directing officers to return the equipment Zachary Parker stole to the school -- something he believed would help persuade school administrators not to press charges. Flanagan has said there is nothing improper about returning stolen property to its owner, and he would have done it for anyone.

Tuesday, Poppe testified that she asked police to return the electronics equipment in September for the new school year. Barket said outside court that this is vital to his case, since under the law if a victim asks that stolen property be returned, it must be returned.

"If she told police she wanted the property back, they not only can but must return the property to her," Barket said.

Police never charged Zachary Parker with the theft, but Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice later presented the case to a grand jury and Zachary Parker was indicted. He pleaded guilty in March, and is serving 1 to 3 years in prison.

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