Two testify they saw Chief Burke in room with suspect

A police sergeant and a detective testified Friday

A police sergeant and a detective testified Friday that they saw the top uniformed official of the Suffolk County Police Department, Chief of Department James Burke, in the interrogation room where police were holding the man charged with stealing items from Burke's car. (June 3, 2013) (Credit: Steve Pfost)

A police sergeant and a detective testified Friday that they saw the top uniformed official of the Suffolk County Police Department, Chief of Department James Burke, in the interrogation room where police were holding the man charged with stealing items from Burke's car.

Both Det. Keith Sinclair and Sgt. Michael Kelly said they saw no bruises or evidence of abuse on the suspect, Christopher Loeb, 27, of Smithtown in the hours after Burke left the interrogation room at the Fourth Precinct on Dec. 14, 2012.

Loeb has told family members that Burke punched him in the stomach while in police custody at the Fourth Precinct, said his mother, Jane Loeb.

The police department issued a statement earlier this year in which Burke denied wrongdoing. The statement said there would be no further comment because of the pending case against Loeb.

Sinclair and Kelly testified in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead at a pretrial hearing on the admissibility of evidence against Loeb on charges that he broke into several cars in the St. James area and stole items.

Sinclair said he saw Burke leave the interrogation room, but had not seen him enter it. Kelly said he saw Burke enter and leave the interrogation room, and that he spent one or two minutes inside.

Loeb's attorney, Daniel Barker, asked Sinclair whether it was unusual to have such a high-ranking official be in an interrogation room. Prosecutor Peter Crusco objected to those questions. Judge Martin Efman upheld the objections, and the questions were not answered.

Sinclair said he could not remember seeing a bruise on the side of Loeb's head that Barker asked about. Barker's cross-examination of Kelly was expected to begin Monday.

Earlier in the day, Barker asked retired Suffolk County Det. Richard Cottingham, who was the lead detective in the Loeb case, about what happened in the squad room. Cottingham said he had not hit Loeb.

During the cross-examination, Cottingham said that the subject of pornography had come up while he was interrogating Loeb.

Asked whether Loeb mentioned that the pornography had been in a duffel bag stolen from Burke's car, Cottingham answered: "No. I don't recall him ever saying it was in the bag."

Jane Loeb has said that Christopher Loeb told her that he saw porn when he opened Burke's duffel bag.

Cottingham had testified Thursday that Burke appeared at Loeb's house on the morning of the arrest and took the duffel bag from the residence. The duffel bag contained Burke's gun belt, ammunition, handcuffs, cigars and other items, according to earlier reports.

Sources have told Newsday that Burke is under investigation by federal officials to see if he violated Loeb's civil rights.

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