A defense attorney representing former Islip Town Public Safety Commissioner John J. Carney, who is charged with bribe receiving and coercion, said during summations in his case Friday that town and Suffolk officials are in “a bed of politics” that caused his client to land in legal trouble.
In State Supreme Court in Central Islip, James Pascarella, of Mineola, said political connections between a town councilwoman, a town official, a county official and a police detective played a hand in Carney’s case.
During his closing argument, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Ward said Carney’s actions were the “definition of coercion.”
Carney was indicted Sept. 13, as was Michael A. Allen, who was an Islip assistant chief fire marshal at the time the crimes allegedly were committed, for what prosecutors have called a scheme to coerce four civil service candidates into declining job offers for Islip Town fire marshal jobs so that provisional employees — some who scored lower on the list — could be hired.
While drawing supposed connections between officials, Pascarella said Carney was “faithfully performing his duties” and “doing what he believed to be right.”
Carney’s fate is now in the hands of the jurors, who began deliberations Friday around 1:30 p.m. The charges include four class D felonies of third-degree bribe receiving, and 12 class A misdemeanors — four counts of official misconduct and eight counts of second-degree coercion. The felony charges each carry a maximum prison sentence of 2 1⁄3 to 7 years, prosecutors have said.
Ward and Angelo Macaluso, the prosecutors on the case, called nine witnesses over three days starting on Tuesday. The trial centered on the issue of “power,” which prosecutors said Carney abused.
“There’s no abuse of power here,” Pascarella said during his summation. “There’s no intent to harm anyone.”
On Thursday, Pascarella made a motion to dismiss the indictment. Justice Fernando Camacho denied the motion on the 12 misdemeanors, but reserved decision on the felony counts until the jury reaches a verdict.
A week before he was indicted, Carney, citing health reasons, resigned from his commissioner position. Allen was demoted after his indictment to his previous title of fire marshal II and placed on administrative duty.
Both pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance. Allen, who will be tried separately from Carney, is due back in court May 18.