A federal judge said Wednesday that she intends to have the trial of former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota and a key aide start as scheduled, after defense attorneys asked for a delay due to possible difficulties in getting emails of two prosecution witnesses who are unnamed Suffolk police officers.
The trial of Spota and the head of his anti-corruption unit, Christopher McPartland, on cover-up and obstruction charges in relation to the beating of a man by former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke, is scheduled to begin Nov. 12. It is expected to last three to four weeks.
At a hearing Wednesday, defense attorneys had asked for a trial delay of at least a week. U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack, at the federal court in Central Islip, denied that request.
Azrack, who has a number of other cases pending, said she might grant a delay of a day or two at most, but would issue an order to the vendor who has the emails to produce them as expeditiously as possible for the defense.
Federal prosecutors have said the email system for Suffolk County employees is so old-fashioned that to get the emails of people they were interested in, they had to get the records of all employees in bulk and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a vendor to extract those records. The email records that the government obtained were those of Spota, McPartland and seven other unnamed people, officials have said.
Defense attorneys had initially argued that the government should provide the two prosecution witnesses' emails to the defense because the government had all Suffolk employees' emails. But Azrack ruled that if the defense wanted emails of specific people, they should separately contract with the vendor and pay for them.
Prosecutors said they had no interest in obtaining the emails of the two prosecution witnesses, according to court testimony.
Spota, 78, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 53, of Northport, are each charged with four felony counts in the cover-up and obstruction case involving the beating of a man in police custody by Spota’s longtime protégé Burke.
Burke, once the highest-ranking Suffolk uniformed police officer, had served most of a 46-month federal prison sentence and was released last year after pleading guilty in 2016 to obstruction of justice and violating the civil rights of Christopher Loeb, the man in custody. Loeb had been arrested for breaking into Burke’s department sport utility vehicle and stealing a duffel bag containing a police gun belt, ammunition, a box of cigars, and pornography.
Spota and McPartland are charged with conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and obstruct an official proceeding; witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding; obstruction of justice; and accessory after the fact to the deprivation of civil rights.
Spota’s defense attorney, Alan Vinegrad, and McPartland’s defense attorney, Larry Krantz, declined to comment afterward, as did Eastern District federal prosecutors Lara Treinis Gatz, Nicole Boeckmann, Justina Geraci and Michael Maffei.