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Judge denies mistrial request in cop-dragging case

Michael Shear at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead

Michael Shear at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Sept. 24. Credit: James Carbone

An attorney representing a motorist on trial for dragging a Suffolk police officer during a traffic stop asked a judge to declare a mistrial Wednesday, saying Suffolk prosecutors failed to promptly turn over records he said would have helped his client.

Steven Politi of Central Islip, the attorney representing Michael Shear, 35, a steamfitter from Holtsville, told the judge that Suffolk prosecutors handed over GPS records of four police cruisers involved in the traffic stop and a subsequent car chase on Tuesday, after testimony in the trial ended and some 20 months after he first asked for them.

Politi said the GPS records would have allowed him, among other things, to cross-examine the officers who testified at trial and show jurors that the officers were lying.

“They knew that with me having those records I’d be able to disprove their lies, which, unfortunately for Michael, my client, disproving those lies would have affected their overall credibility with regard to all the charges,” Politi said.

Politi said he asked former prosecutor Glenn Kurtzrock for the GPS records in February 2017 as part of a wider request for evidence, but never received them. Kurtzrock, who was found to have hidden evidence favorable to the defense in several murder prosecutions, was forced to resign in May 2017.

Suffolk prosecutors, however, said Politi did not ask for the GPS records in the months leading up to trial or during the trial, according to a spokeswoman for District Attorney Timothy Sini.

Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow in Riverhead on Wednesday denied Politi’s request for a mistrial, but agreed that the defense should have had the GPS records before trial, according to Politi. As a remedy, Politi said the judge agreed to dismiss one charge — unlawful fleeing from a police officer — leaving eight remaining counts against Shear.

On Jan. 15, 2017, prosecutors said officer Gregory Sandbichler pulled Shear over in Patchogue, but Shear refused to get out of his SUV and sped away, dragging the officer 40 to 50 feet.

Then, after a chase, Sandbichler has testified that Shear refused to show him his hands. Sandbichler has said he shot Shear in the shoulder after Shear pointed the officer’s lost Taser at him.

Politi has argued that Shear drove off to get away from the "lunatic" cop, referring to Sandbichler.

Sini’s spokeswoman said the GPS records corroborate the testimony of the prosecution witnesses, and prosecutors disagree with Braslow’s decision to throw out the single misdemeanor charge.

“The defense made a frivolous application for a mistrial claiming misconduct,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “The Judge properly denied that request and found that no misconduct had occurred.”

Politi was also unhappy with Braslow’s decision to dismiss the one charge.

“What’s unfair is that I didn’t have the right to expose them during cross-examination, which goes to every count, as opposed to just the one count,” Politi said.

The discussion regarding Politi’s motion did not take place in open court, but in Braslow’s office with the judge, Politi and his co-counsel, case prosecutors Maggie Bopp and Carl Borelli, and the court stenographer present.

Politi’s motion came on the same day that both sides summed up their cases.

After summations, the judge delivered his instructions to jurors, who deliberated for about an hour without reaching a verdict.

Deliberations are to resume Thursday.

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