A Suffolk County judge Friday denied a defense motion for a special prosecutor in the case of a Holbrook man set to go on trial next week on charges of driving drunk and killing a 12-year-old Boy Scout, saying the Suffolk County district attorney's office has not prevented the defendant from receiving a fair trial.
Supervising Judge Mark Cohen issued the ruling Friday morning from the bench in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead. In a three-page written decision following days of dueling memos from the defense and prosecution trading allegations of misconduct, Cohen wrote: "The record presented plainly establishes that the [district attorney’s office] has understood the tensions involved in executing its responsibilities and has not tipped the balance against the defendant so as to require judicial action.”
Defense attorney Steven Politi, in a motion filed Tuesday, had asked that Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini’s office be removed from prosecuting the case against Thomas Murphy, 60, who has pleaded not guilty to a 16-count indictment containing charges including aggravated vehicular homicide, assault and driving while intoxicated in the Sept. 30, 2018, crash in Manorville. Scout Andrew McMorris was killed in the crash and another Scout from Troop 161 was seriously injured.
Politi said Sini's office had "poisoned" the potential jury pool because it had made "misleading and inaccurate" public statements about his client and had "closely aligned” itself with the McMorris family by appearing with them at an anti-drunken driving seminar for students, among a slew of other accusations.
Brendan Ahern, lead prosecutor in the case, had disputed Politi’s assertions in a written reply to the court, and accused Politi of making false claims in media interviews.
Politi said Friday that he disagreed with Cohen's decision.
"Courts don't believe that DAs are gonna be untruthful so they accept them at their word, but this DA's office shouldn't be believed, all they do is misrepresent things," Politi said.
The district attorney’s office, which was represented Friday in court by Chief Assistant William Ferris and Appeals Bureau Chief Glenn Green, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Central Islip-based Politi, along with co-counsel Caroline Mayrhofer, said he planned to file a separate motion Saturday in the appellate division to have Judge Fernando Camacho removed as the trial judge.
"I believe the DA and the judge are working in tandem against the defendant," said Politi, citing an April hearing where he said Camacho was "not professional" and "went crazy" on his client.
Politi will seek a change of venue next week because, he said, many prospective jurors in Suffolk County have heard "untrue" statements about the allegations.
"They haven't told you that unfortunately these kids were in the street," said Politi, referring to the Boy Scouts. "For the last year, the facts have been misreported and the facts have been doled out by the district attorney's office that benefit their case, but they're simply not true.”
Ahern has called Politi’s allegation that the Scouts were in the road “false information.”
Authorities have said The Scouts from Troop 161 in Shoreham were walking along the shoulder of David Terry Road as part of a hike through the woods when Murphy’s 2016 Mercedes-Benz struck them. Murphy registered a .13 blood alcohol content, prosecutors have said, but said forensic toxicologists estimate it was .19 at the time of the crash — more than double the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Cohen, in his decision, said his ruling “does not minimize several contentions raised by the defendant, some of which may be further addressed by the trial judge.”
Cohen also directly addressed some of Politi’s allegations, including that the prosecution improperly sent 176 victim impact statements to Camacho before trial. Ahern had answered that his office had delivered the letters to the judge only after Murphy’s prior attorney gave 101 “good guy” letters to the judge as he sought a plea deal.
Cohen, citing Ahern’s memo that Camacho had not reviewed the letters, said: “Therefore, there is no basis to find actual, or even inferred, prejudice due to these letters.”
Cohen said the presence of Ahern and another prosecutor at the scene of the crash to provide legal counsel was a “proper job-related activity.” Politi had suggested they participated in evidence collection and therefore could be witnesses.
Jury selection in Murphy’s trial is set to begin Tuesday afternoon.