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Conflict-of-interest petition withdrawn in N. Bellport dirt bike fatal crash

Christopher Bouchard, inside Judge Camacho's courtroom at First

Christopher Bouchard, inside Judge Camacho's courtroom at First District in Central Islip on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. Bouchard was charged with manslaughter in the deaths of Keennan King, 19, and Anthony Holmes-Garriques, 20, both of Bellport. Credit: James Carbone

A Mastic Beach man accused of killing two people on a dirt bike withdrew his petition on Wednesday to remove the Suffolk district attorney’s office from the case over a conflict-of-interest allegation against a prosecutor.

The move by Christopher Bouchard, 28, and his attorneys came after Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini assured them Wednesday his office will meet with the defense team to resolve the conflict-of-interest claim and the criminal case.

Bouchard was arrested on June 22, 2017, after authorities said he drove his minivan into two men riding on a stolen dirt bike, killing the motorcycle’s driver, Keenen King, 19, of Shirley, and his passenger, Anthony Holmes-Garriques, 20, of North Bellport.

At the time, Bouchard was charged with one count of felony reckless endangerment in the North Bellport crash. A grand jury in November indicted Bouchard on manslaughter and other charges.

John Halverson, Bouchard’s attorney, said that between June and October, he sought advice from Brendan Ahern, then a defense attorney, who was hired in January as chief of the vehicular crimes bureau when Sini became district attorney.

Halverson said he consulted with Ahern, a former Nassau County prosecutor, on numerous occasions during those four months, including a face-to-face meeting in the cafeteria of the Cohalan Court Complex in Central Islip in June.

“Mr. Ahern reviewed my case file and we discussed defenses and conversations I had with my client,” Halverson said in the April 2 petition filed with state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen in Riverhead. “I relied heavily on Mr. Ahern’s advice and counsel as I respected his opinion based on his experience as a Nassau County District Attorney in the Vehicular Crimes Bureau.”

Ahern, in his response to the petition, acknowledged Halverson asked for his help and they met in the courthouse cafeteria June 30, but denied reviewing documents pertaining to the Bouchard case.

“I never had any relevant conversation pertaining to privileged communications between Mr. Halverson and his client,” Ahern said in the April 11 court filing. “At no point did I perceive that Mr. Halverson had disclosed privileged conversations.”

Almost all the discussions at the courthouse meeting, Ahern said, centered on conversations Halverson had with members of then-District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office.

On March 20, Ahern, in his role prosecuting Bouchard, notified Halverson the district attorney’s office would present the case to a second grand jury. Halverson then filed the petition on Bouchard’s behalf, saying it would be unfair for Sini’s office to prosecute the case.

Given that the facts were in dispute, Cohen had ordered a hearing on Wednesday to determine who was telling the truth before he could decide whether to disqualify Sini’s office from the case and appoint a special prosecutor.

Halverson, who would have been called as a witness, hired Steven Politi of Central Islip, to represent him at the hearing. Sini and at least half a dozen lawyers from his office, including Ahern, also assembled in Cohen’s courtroom.

Since both sides agreed to try work it out among themselves, the hearing was no longer needed.

“There is an appearance of impropriety,” Politi said outside court. “We want to make sure Mr. Bouchard is not punished by anything that his lawyer was doing to help him.”

Judge Cohen dismissed Bouchard’s petition and told the defendant he could refile if both sides can’t reach an agreement.

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