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Feds: Spota and McPartland should serve 8 years in prison for Burke cover-up

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and former Spota aide, Christopher McPartland, outside federal court in Central Islip. Credit: Newsday File/Barry Sloan/James Carbone

Federal prosecutors want former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and his top aide to each spend 8 years in prison for their roles in orchestrating the cover-up of a prisoner beating by ex-police Chief James Burke, arguing Friday that their punishment should exceed federal sentencing guidelines.

"A sentence within the guidelines range does not adequately capture nor appropriately punish the defendants," federal prosecutors wrote in a 35-page sentencing memorandum filed Friday. "The sentences imposed should reflect the unprecedented magnitude and scope of the defendants’ abuse of power."

Spota, 79, of Mount Sinai, and his then-government corruption bureau chief Christopher McPartland, 55, of Northport, were convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and civil rights violations in December 2019 for helping to orchestrate the cover-up of the beating of a shackled prisoner by Burke, who was Spota’s longtime protégé. The pair are set to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack on June 30.

A 96-month, or 8-year sentence, would represent a departure from both federal sentencing guidelines and the recommendation made by probation officials, which last month said Spota should serve 57 to 71 months in prison and that McPartland should receive a sentence of 46 to 57 months in prison.

In arguing for longer sentences Friday, prosecutors Lara Treinis Gatz, Nicole Boeckmann, Justina L. Geraci and Michael R. Maffei called the defendants' criminal conduct "unprecedented."

"Their sentences should also reflect the immeasurable damage their conduct caused to the [Suffolk County District Attorney's Office], to the balance of law and order in Suffolk County, and to the public trust," they wrote.

"Equally important, these sentences should send a strong message to other elected and high-ranking officials; a message that shouts: corruption will not be tolerated, and those who engage in such conduct will be severely punished. Finally, these sentences should communicate to the public that the rule of law applies even to the most prominent of public officials."

Prosecutors also said Spota should pay a "substantial" fine of at least $100,000, citing what they said was Spota's $17 million estimated net worth and his taxpayer-funded pension of just under $9,000 monthly.

"While such a fine may hardly constitute a punishment to someone of his means, it may provide the taxpayers with some small measure of financial justice," the prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors also argued that unlike other cases of prosecutorial misconduct in other parts of the country, Spota and McPartland's crimes weren't motivated by money or financial gains.

"Rather, they were committed because they sought to preserve the power structure that they had created in Suffolk County," court papers read. "Rather, Spota and McPartland silenced witnesses, obstructed justice, coerced a witness to lie under oath in a criminal proceeding, and attempted to derail a federal grand jury investigation, all in order to maintain their Suffolk power trinity, and because they thought they could get away with it, without consequence."

Spota’s attorney, Alan Vinegrad, could not immediately reached for comment.

McPartland’s attorney, Larry Krantz, said he will be responding to the government's memorandum soon.

"The government’s sentencing recommendation is overly harsh and grossly disproportionate to the offense conduct," Krantz said Friday. "Thankfully, under our system, it is not the prosecutors who decide the sentence, but the Judge."

Defense attorneys had argued for their clients to receive no prison time and instead be sentenced to home confinement and community service.

Spota's attorneys described him as a "shattered man" beset by embarrassment about the allegations and said any prison time would amount to a "death sentence."

McPartland's attorneys similarly said their client had already endured "brutal punishment," losing his ability to practice law and any sense of self-worth, adding that the former career prosecutor had "been reduced to working as a sales clerk in a liquor store (the only place he has been able to find work) and presently earns $16 an hour."

Burke, who had close relationships with Spota and McPartland, pleaded guilty in 2016 to violating the civil rights of the prisoner he assaulted, Christopher Loeb, of Smithtown, for stealing his a gym bag containing sex toys and porn from his police vehicle.

The former chief was sentenced to 46 months in prison and was released to home confinement after serving most of his sentence.

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