A federal judge Thursday set a May 6 trial date for former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and a former key aide, Christopher McPartland, both of whom face allegations of covering up an assault by former Suffolk police Chief James Burke.
The trial previously was scheduled for March, but U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack delayed it for a second time Thursday due to a potential scheduling conflict. Azrack said she was delaying the trial because of concern the retrial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda, on corruption charges, over which she also is presiding, would run into March. That retrial had been adjourned until January.
The judge also cited federal prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz's involvement in both trials as a reason for the delay.
Spota and McPartland each face four counts: 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, according to the indictment.
If convicted, they each face up to 20 years in prison. Both Spota and McPartland have pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutors said Spota, 76, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 51, of Northport, used “intimidation, threats and corrupt persuasion to pressure ... witnesses, including co-conspirators, not to cooperate with the federal investigation, to provide false information, including false testimony under oath, and to withhold relevant information from” federal investigators.
Burke, former Suffolk police chief of department, is serving a 46-month term in federal prison for violating the civil rights of Christopher Loeb in December 2012 by assaulting him while he was restrained at the Fourth Precinct in Hauppauge and trying to cover it up. Loeb had been in custody after being charged with breaking into Burke's police SUV in a Smithtown neighborhood and taking the chief's duffle bag.
Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is trying the Spota-McPartland case with Gatz, said the government already turned over a large quantity of discovery material to the defense.
Spota and McPartland were not in the courtroom Thursday but listened to the proceedings by telephone.