Evidence that a Smithtown heroin addict stole a gun belt and a duffel bag belonging to the top uniformed official of the Suffolk Police Department should be suppressed because of the misbehavior of that official and other detectives, the defendant's attorney said in a written argument submitted Monday to a judge.
Christopher Loeb, 27, is facing grand larceny, possession of stolen property and other charges. One of the vehicles he is accused of breaking into was the department's GMC Yukon used by Chief of Department James Burke. Loeb was arrested almost a year ago when his probation officer noticed possibly stolen property at his house. A search turned up some items owned by Burke.
Defense attorney Daniel Barker argued in papers submitted to state Supreme Court Justice Martin Efman that much of the case against Loeb is tainted and should be excluded. Barker wrote that the search of Loeb's house was illegal and that because, he said, Burke and detectives beat Loeb while he was in custody, any statements he made were coerced and therefore inadmissible at trial.
Special prosecutor Peter Crusco, appointed because of Burke's close ties to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, argued in his papers that police had acted properly. Efman said he will rule on the issues Dec. 17.
During an extensive pre-trial hearing, Loeb testified that Burke's duffel bag contained "nasty pornography." Detectives said Burke visited Loeb's house during the search and took the bag.
Crusco dismissed Loeb's testimony as "part and parcel of his attempt to manipulate his predicament to his advantage by concocting a story about pornography that he allegedly discovered in the . . . bag, and an alleged police cover-up."
But Barker wrote that Burke brought these questions on himself by improperly entering Loeb's house and taking the bag. "The contents of the bag were never inventoried, nor photographed," he added.
Further, the entire search was illegal, Barker wrote. Although Loeb's probation officer had a right to be in his home, police did not because they didn't have a search warrant.
"These officers were on a mission to find the Chief of Police's gun belt," Barker wrote.
Crusco, however, wrote that police were there properly to support the probation officer's search of the house.
Loeb's interrogation also was tainted, Barker wrote. Detectives hit and choked his client even before Burke entered the interview room and punched him in the head, he wrote.
Barker wrote that it was "quite telling" that Crusco didn't call Burke as a witness during the hearing and that it made no sense that Burke would enter the room just to see if he recognized Loeb.
"Chief James Burke entered the interrogation room to do just what Christopher Loeb testified about, to threaten and physically abuse Christopher Loeb without any fear of being held accountable," Barker wrote.
Crusco didn't explicitly address Loeb's claims that he was beaten. He wrote that "the detectives were constantly solicitous of defendant's physical needs" and that they "did not act improperly, much less coercively" when they took his statements in which he described breaking into cars.