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Judge asks prison officials to send ex-Spota aide to minimum-security prison

Christopher McPartland arrives at federal court in Central

Christopher McPartland arrives at federal court in Central Islip in August. Credit: James Carbone

A federal judge has asked prison officials to reconsider their decision to incarcerate a former aide to ex-Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota in a section of a Texas correctional institution that isn’t minimum security.

U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack recommended in a court filing last week that Christopher McPartland go to a minimum-security prison camp, saying in part that "there was no violence associated with Mr. McPartland’s offenses of conviction, which involved principally obstruction of justice."

Azrack’s intervention followed a request from McPartland's lawyer, Larry Krantz, who wrote in a court motion that the Bureau of Prisons recently decided to assign McPartland to a low-security section of Beaumont Federal Correctional Complex.

Prison officials decided McPartland shouldn’t be in a minimum-security camp because he "was found guilty of being ‘an accessory after the fact’ to the assault of Christopher Loeb," giving his case the severity scale of an assault case, according to the defense filing.

Minimum-security federal prison "camps" have limited or no perimeter fencing, but low-security facilities have double-fenced perimeters and a higher staff-to-inmate ratio.

A jury in 2019 convicted Spota, and McPartland, who had led his anti-corruption bureau, of corruption charges that also included conspiracy.

The panel found the prosecutors orchestrated a cover-up of Loeb’s 2012 beating inside a Hauppauge precinct that James Burke, who was then Suffolk police chief, carried out with three detectives. It happened after Loeb broke into Burke’s vehicle and stole items that included his gun belt, Viagra, pornography and sex toys.

Burke served most of a 46-month prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2016 to charges that included conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice.

Azrack has ordered Spota, 80, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 55, of Northport, to surrender to prison officials by Dec. 10 to begin serving the five-year prison sentences she gave them in August.

The judge previously granted McPartland a 30-day extension to his surrender date after he said in part that he was trying to get a different prison assignment. But Azrack also denied a defense motion for Spota and McPartland to stay free on bail while appealing their convictions to a higher court.

The judge’s Oct. 21 recommendation to prison officials about McPartland’s custody assignment followed the related motion that the defense filed a day earlier.

Both Krantz and John Marzulli, a spokesman for Eastern District federal prosecutors, have declined to comment on the judge’s recommendation.

The Bureau of Prisons released a statement on Monday to Newsday saying the agency's policy is only to release information about an individual's custody assignment after that person arrives at the destination.

The BOP said it routinely gets judicial recommendations but "ultimately has the sole responsibility" in determining an offender's assignment after considering factors that include the level of security that person requires, along with any medical or programming needs, any separation measures needed to ensure the inmate's protection and also proximity to that person's "release residence."

Azrack’s recommendation, which closely followed language that Krantz proposed, also asked prison officials to incarcerate McPartland closer to New York "so that his family can visit more easily."

The Bureau of Prisons previously had cited McPartland’s safety when assigning him far from his home state because of his former role as a New York prosecutor, according to a defense filing.

But besides recommending a prison "camp" in Pennsylvania or West Virginia, Azrack also lobbied for McPartland to be incarcerated elsewhere in Pennsylvania or in Ohio or Virginia if "a minimum security designation is not possible."

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