A federal grand jury is investigating Christopher McPartland, the top corruption prosecutor in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, for possible obstruction of justice charges as an outgrowth of the case against former Suffolk police chief James Burke, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
McPartland, division chief of investigations in Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office, has been sent a letter from the grand jury informing him he is a target of the investigation, the sources said. Investigators are probing if McPartland participated in meetings with Suffolk law enforcement officials and encouraged them to lie about Burke’s actions in the assault of a Smithtown man, the sources said.
Burke, 51, was indicted Dec. 9 and faces trial on charges that he assaulted the Smithtown man, Christopher Loeb, 29, who stole a duffel bag from Burke’s department-issued sport utility vehicle, and then engaged in a cover-up of the assault by getting law enforcement officials who had knowledge of the assault to lie about it when questioned by federal agents.
McPartland has not been charged with any crime.
McPartland’s attorney, Larry Krantz, of Manhattan, a former federal prosecutor, declined to comment, as did Nellin McIntosh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District. Burke’s attorney, Joseph Conway of Mineola, also declined to comment.
A call to McPartland’s office requesting comment was transferred by his secretary to a spokesman for Spota, who did not immediately return requests for comment.
McPartland was notified in recent days that he is a target of the investigation by the federal grand jury in the form of a hand-delivered letter from the grand jury, the sources said. Such so-called target letters are sent to people who are under investigation by a grand jury who might be asked to testify, to inform them of their rights against self-incrimination.
Burke, McPartland and Spota are longtime associates in county law enforcement. Nothing in the target letter referred to any untoward actions by Spota, the sources said.
Burke, a longtime protege of Spota’s, worked closely with the district attorney and McPartland during the nearly 10 years he headed the DA’s detective squad, before becoming chief of the police department in 2012 with Spota’s strong support.
In court papers filed to a federal judge successfully arguing that Burke should be held without bail, pending trial as a danger to the community, one of the examples that Eastern District federal prosecutors Lara Treinis Gatz and James Miskiewicz used involved Burke and another person getting involved in a car accident.
Sources said the other person involved in the accident was McPartland. Neither Burke nor McPartland reported the accident, the sources said.
The papers said that in 2001, “Burke, by his own admission to others, was driving under the influence of alcohol and struck a state-owned vehicle.
“Abusing his power and authority, Burke and the other driver left the scene of the accident, avoiding prosecution for the DUI, and committing a further crime by leaving without reporting the accident,” the letter continued.
Further the letter stated: “The extensive damage to the state vehicle that he struck, and his other criminal conduct, was concealed by Burke, who paid thousands of dollars for vehicle repairs to cover up his crime.”
After pointing out what was in the government letter at the hearing, prosecutor Miskiewicz said of the actions of Burke, and the driver of the damaged car, unidentified in the letter: “No police intervention. No DUI. No ticket. No nothing.”
Spota has hired a private lawyer to deal with any possible questioning from the grand jury, the sources said.
McPartland, a graduate of Hofstra University’s law school, joined the district attorney’s office in 1991.
On his LinkedIn page, McPartland says he graduated from Georgetown University before attending Hofstra. He also says in 2013 he won the Robert M. Morgenthau award from the New York State District Attorneys Association and in 2015 the Thomas J. Spota Prosecutor of the Year Award from the Suffolk County Police Department.
In 2005, he was put in charge of a newly created governmental corruption bureau, combining a government corruption task force and a public integrity unit.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of work to be done in this area,” McPartland was quoted in Newsday as saying at the time. “The district attorney has put the appropriate resources in place.”