Retired Deputy Chief John Hunter pleads guilty in police misconduct case

William Petrillo, attorney for retired Nassau County Deputy Police Chief John Hunter, discusses Hunter's reasons for pleading guilty Wednesday to three misdemeanors – two counts of official misconduct and one count of conspiracy. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (May 1, 2013)

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A retired Nassau County police commander pleaded guilty Wednesday to official misconduct for trying to help derail burglary charges against the son of a man who donated money to police causes.

Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, former deputy patrol chief John Hunter avoided jail time. He was sentenced instead to 3 years of probation and 500 hours of community service.

Hunter also must make a training video for police recruits on how to avoid his mistakes.

"I violated my duty as a member of the Nassau County Police Department, which I will forever regret," Hunter told State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen. "I apologize for any embarrassment I have caused the police department I have loved and served for 35 years."

The corruption case is tied to the 2009 burglary of $11,000 worth of electronics equipment from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore.

Gary Parker -- a Manhattan accountant and a longtime police donor -- allegedly enlisted the help of high-ranking police friends to thwart the arrest of his son, Zachary. Police did not charge the young burglar, but the district attorney convened a grand jury that indicted him.

Convicted of the crime, Zachary Parker, 21, of Merrick, is now serving 1 to 3 years in jail. He was sentenced in September.

Three now-retired police officials -- Hunter; William Flanagan, deputy commissioner; and Alan Sharpe, a detective supervisor -- were charged with playing roles in the arrest prevention.

Flanagan was convicted in February of misdemeanor official misconduct, but the jury acquitted him of the only felony charge: receiving a reward for official misconduct. He is awaiting sentencing June 26 and faces up to a year in jail.

Sharpe is awaiting trial on official misconduct charges, also misdemeanors, that include an allegation that he closed out the Parker burglary case on department computers on Sept. 19, 2010, by falsely claiming the school did not want to press charges. He is due back in court May 15.

"We brought these cases to make sure that there isn't one set of rules for the rich and connected, and another for everyone else," Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Wednesday in a statement.

"John Hunter violated his oath and the law when he gave special treatment to a wealthy friend's son, and today's guilty plea ensures that he will face serious consequences for his conduct," she added.

Hunter, 60, of Oyster Bay, had faced up to a year in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charges: two counts of official misconduct and one count of conspiracy.

The conviction in Nassau County Court doesn't affect his pension or a $415,300 lump-sum payment for accrued sick leave and unused time off, authorities said. He will also be allowed to keep his pistol and carry permit.

The indictment said Hunter was "instrumental" in getting Zachary Parker a job as an employee of the department's ambulance unit in 2008, and had several email exchanges with his father about how the school burglary incident in 2009 would be handled.

During the Flanagan trial, Gary Parker testified that he organized and paid for dinners attended by law enforcement officials, hosted parties for them in the backyard of his Merrick home, got them seats at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and tickets to Yankees games.

He said that after he learned of his son's theft, he phoned Hunter and asked to meet him at a diner.

"I expressed incredible disappointment in Zach, and as a friend he was very comforting to me. I literally sat there and cried," Parker testified. He said he asked Hunter to "put in a good word" for his son.

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