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Judge sets Spota, McPartland sentencings for March 24

Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, left,

Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and former aide, Christopher McPartland. Credit: Composite photo: Barry Sloan, left, and James Carbone

A federal judge has set a March sentencing date for former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and a key aide, who were convicted last year of helping to orchestrate a coverup in the beating of a handcuffed prisoner by the police chief.

In an order issued late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack scheduled the sentencings for Wednesday, March 24 at 2 p.m.

Spota, who served as the district attorney for more than 15 years, and Christopher McPartland, the head of the district attorney's anti-corruption unit, were each convicted of witness tampering, conspiracy to commit witness tampering, obstruction of justice and being an accessory after the fact in the case of Spota’s longtime protégé, Suffolk Chief James Burke.

Burke assaulted Christopher Loeb in 2012 after the drug addict stole a "party bag" from the chief's car that contained items including his gun belt, ammunition, a box of cigars, police union cards, sex toys, pornography and Viagra, testimony at trial showed.

Burke pleaded guilty in February 2016 to conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and violating the victim's civil rights and was sentenced in November 2016 to 46 months in prison.

Spota, 79, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 55, of Northport, each theoretically face up to 20 years in prison, but would probably get much less under federal sentencing guidelines.

A jury returned the verdicts against Spota and McPartland in December of 2019 after a six-week trial and seven hours of deliberations.

Earlier this month, Azrack declined to hold a hearing requested by Spota and McPartland to show that the key witness against them committed perjury with the knowledge of federal prosecutors, and thus they should get a new trial.

The key witness was former Suffolk police Lt. James Hickey, the head of the department’s intelligence division, who testified that he was part of an "inner circle" of Suffolk law enforcement that included Spota, McPartland and Burke.

In her denial of Spota’s and McPartland’s motions for an evidentiary hearing, Azrack wrote: "A close examination of Defendants’ perjury and Brady claims reveal that they are meritless … too speculative and implausible to warrant a hearing."

The judge also said that during the trial, the defense conducted "a vigorous and in-depth cross examination of Hickey," arguing that he was "a rampant liar," and telling the jury that there were "10 reasons why Jim Hickey is not credible."

McPartland’s attorney, Larry Krantz, declined to comment, as did John Marzulli, spokesman for Eastern District prosecutors Nicole Boeckmann, Lara Treinis Gatz, Justina Geraci and Michael Maffei.

The defense attorney for Spota did return a call for comment.

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