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Feds oppose bail for Spota, McPartland during appeal process, court papers say

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and former top aide, Christopher McPartland, in August. Credit: James Carbone

The arguments raised by ex-Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota and his former aide Christopher McPartland in seeking bail pending appeal of their corruption convictions were already settled during their 2019 trial, according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors, who argued the men should surrender to prison officials later this year.

"The defendants are not entitled to bail pending appeal, as they have utterly failed to raise a substantial question of law or fact for appeal," prosecutors said in the court papers filed Monday. "Their memoranda raise several evidentiary issues, none of which are substantial, and each of which this court has previously denied."

Attorneys for Spota, 80, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 55, of Northport, said in motions filed this month that the appeals from Spota and McPartland will present "substantial" questions of law that could result in a reversal or new trial.

But prosecutors with the Eastern District of New York said the issues raised in the defense papers are "unsubstantiated" and that U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack should order McPartland to report to prison by Nov. 10 and Spota to do the same by Dec. 10.

Spota’s lead attorney, Alan Vinegrad, and McPartland’s lead lawyer, Larry Krantz, did not respond to requests for comment.

A jury in 2019 convicted Spota and McPartland, who had headed Spota’s anti-corruption unit, of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and acting as accessories to the deprivation of prisoner Christopher Loeb’s civil rights. Azrack sentenced Spota and McPartland to each serve 5 years in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors said Spota and McPartland engineered a cover-up of the 2012 assault by former Suffolk Police Chief James Burke, who was angry that Loeb, then a heroin addict, stole a duffel bag that held his gun belt, ammunition, Viagra, sex toys and pornography. Burke pleaded guilty in 2016 to obstruction of justice and the deprivation of Loeb’s rights and served most of a 46-month prison sentence before he was released to a halfway house.

The defense lawyers’ Sept. 6 motions said the government tainted the former district attorney by presenting copious and irrelevant evidence of bad acts by Burke, and that the convictions of Spota and McPartland were based on "guilt by association."

In Monday’s filing, prosecutors say it was necessary to include evidence of Burke’s bad acts to provide jurors with the context of the conspiracy and explain its origins.

Spota’s motion also claims prosecutors elicited inflammatory and irrelevant testimony from former police officers who said they feared retaliation from Burke and Spota if they cooperated with federal authorities, calling it "unsupported and inadmissible speculation."

Federal prosecutors, however, said Azrack had agreed with defense lawyers to put limits on the officers’ testimony — over the government’s objections — before the trial even began. Krantz also "vigorously" cross-examined the ex-cops about "the difference between what they perceived with their five senses and what they imagined or believed in their minds," the papers say.

"The mere fact that this legally permissible and truthful testimony ended up being devastating to the defense does not ipso facto raise a substantial question of law concerning its admissibility," prosecutors said in Monday’s filing.

Spota’s defense team also said in its Sept. 6 papers that prosecutors slandered Spota's former chief assistant prosecutor, Emily Constant. Their filing says that while Constant provided "powerful testimony vindicating Mr. Spota," the prosecution then accused Constant in its closing argument of "being complicit" in the cover-up of Loeb's assault.

Prosecutors said that argument is a "red herring." Constant was originally deemed an adverse witness for the government and prosecutors attacked her during closing argument and rebuttal as having a convenient "memory, her bias and her admitted motivation to protect the defendants, with whom she had a longstanding, close, personal and professional relationship," the papers said.

The defense had said during the trial that there was no way Spota or McPartland tried to hide Burke's role in Loeb's beating because Burke never confessed to them before admitting his guilt in federal court. But the prosecution told jurors that Spota was the "CEO" of the conspiracy, while McPartland was the scheme's "chief operating officer" as they broke the law they were supposed to uphold.

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