During a tense and, at times, emotional cross-examination Thursday, a Smithtown man denied he invented a tale about getting punched in the head by Suffolk's top uniformed police official and finding "disgusting pornography" in the top cop's duffel bag.
Christopher Loeb, 27, during questioning from special prosecutor Peter Crusco, denied he made up his accusations against Chief of Department James Burke as a way to get out from under the grand larceny, possession of stolen property and other charges against him. He acknowledged stealing a duffel bag from Burke's sport utility vehicle.
Crusco suggested Loeb thought he'd gotten lucky when he discovered he'd stolen Burke's things.
"You started thinking, 'How can I turn this to my advantage?' " Crusco said.
"Absolutely not," said Loeb, who frequently raised his voice during his testimony.
The confrontation came during a pretrial hearing to determine if statements that police say Loeb made after his arrest on Dec. 14, 2012, will be admissible at trial.
Burke's attorney, Joseph Conway of Mineola, said he expects Burke to be cleared of any wrongdoing.
"Today's testimony clearly illustrates a desperate attempt by a twice-convicted felon and admitted drug abuser to avoid a lengthy prison sentence by concocting an 'Alice in Wonderland' fantasy story that he was framed and then beaten, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary," Conway said.
Loeb is charged with stealing items from several cars in the St. James area, including from Burke's unlocked GMC Yukon. Earlier in the hearing, officers testified that Burke showed up at Loeb's house in Smithtown and, during a police search, took the duffel bag that had been stolen from the SUV, and that, later, Burke spent one or two minutes with Loeb in the interrogation room.
Loeb, convicted in April 2012 of felony grand larceny, testified the duffel bag contained pornography and other items. The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District are investigating whether Burke assaulted Loeb, law enforcement sources have said. Loeb is being held as a material witness in federal custody.
Although Burke was in the courthouse for a second day, neither Crusco nor defense attorney Daniel Barker called him to testify. Both declined to comment on why they didn't call Burke.
Conway said Burke did nothing improper in collecting his property at Loeb's house. "He's actually the victim," Conway said. Burke will cooperate with any investigation into Loeb's beating claims, which he denies, Conway said.
He said Loeb's description of five pornographic DVDs in a side pocket of the duffel bag was "a fantasy of the defendant's."
During questioning by Crusco, Loeb refused to say what kind of pornography it was because "there were threats made to my family and myself."
"Mr. Loeb, it didn't take much to concoct this story, did it?" Crusco asked. State Supreme Court Justice Martin Efman sustained an objection to the question, so Loeb didn't answer.
Loeb did say he steals, though, and later acknowledged having a variety of stolen property in his bedroom, including Burke's bag.
"Lying isn't too far from that, is it?" Crusco asked. Efman sustained an objection to that question, too.
With testimony complete, Efman directed Crusco and Barker to submit written arguments on whether Loeb's statements should be suppressed. They may make oral arguments as well at the next court date, Dec. 2.
With Tania Lopez