Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and former...

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

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota and a former top aide, Christopher McPartland, joined the ranks of the nation's incarcerated felons Friday after surrendering at separate federal prisons to serve 5-year sentences for their corruption convictions, prison officials said.

Their surrenders capped a saga of misconduct that began with a prisoner’s beating in a Hauppauge police precinct in 2012 and led to the downfall of Suffolk’s highest law enforcement official as he tried to protect his police chief protégé by attempting to conceal that brutality.

Spota, who spent 15 years at the top of Suffolk's law and order structure, is now an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

McPartland, a trusted ex-Spota deputy who was tasked with exposing the kind of malfeasance of which he now stands convicted, is incarcerated at Beaumont Federal Correctional Complex in Texas, according to prison officials.

Both former prosecutors are housed in low-security sections of their respective prisons, according to a BOP spokesman. That means Spota and McPartland aren't in minimum-security "camp" areas of the facilities, which have limited or no perimeter fencing.

Low-security facilities, which are one level up in security, feature double-fenced perimeters and a higher staff-to-inmate ratio.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied the defendants’ requests to remain free on bail while they appeal their convictions.

A jury in 2019 convicted the now-disbarred lawyers of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and acting as accessories to the deprivation of prisoner Christopher Loeb’s civil rights.

Jurors found Spota, 80, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 56, of Northport, orchestrated a cover-up of Loeb’s beating that then-Suffolk Police Chief James Burke carried out with three detectives. The assault happened after Loeb, then a drug addict, 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 before his release to a halfway house after pleading guilty in 2016 to conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and the deprivation of Loeb’s rights.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice lecturer Eugene O'Donnell, a former prosecutor and police officer in New York City, said Friday that the conviction and incarceration of Spota will alter the landscape of law enforcement both in the state and beyond.

"I think it's going to never be the same. I think prosecutors' offices are going to be subject to more scrutiny going forward," he said, adding that Spota's downfall "underscores that the chief prosecutor has to be exemplary."

The surrenders of Spota and McPartland followed a final attempt by McPartland to avoid incarceration in the low-security section of the Texas prison, which his lawyer, Larry Krantz, said would "make for far more arduous conditions of confinement" than a camp setting.

U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack on Tuesday denied a request by Krantz that she intervene and recommend to prison officials for a second time that the former prosecutor not be housed in that part of the Beaumont complex.

Krantz had asked, in what he called a "last-resort" court filing Monday, for Azrack to speak to prison officials about the same issue after they declined to change McPartland’s Texas assignment following her first request.

"We have nowhere else to turn," Krantz wrote. He declined to comment Friday.

In late October, Azrack had signed a court order at the defense’s request that asked BOP officials to reconsider the decision to incarcerate McPartland in the non-camp Texas setting and to assign him to a facility closer to New York so his family could visit more easily. The judge’s order said in part that "there was no violence associated with Mr. McPartland’s offenses of conviction, which involved principally obstruction of justice."

It followed a filing from Krantz, who said prison officials had decided McPartland shouldn’t be in a minimum-security setting because his case had the severity scale of an assault case.

Krantz’s October filing also said the BOP had cited a concern for McPartland’s safety when assigning him far from his home state because of his status as a former New York prosecutor.

Azrack said at the defendants' August sentencing that Spota did "incalculable damage" to the criminal justice system after a yearslong conspiracy that included threats against witnesses.

"I hope it sends a clear message that no one is above the law, and criminal conduct that betrays the public trust will be punished," the judge said of his sentence.

Spota told the judge he hoped to not die in prison alone and felt deep anguish for the shame his conviction brought to his family — saying they would "forever be marked" by his disgrace. McPartland had asked the judge to consider how a severe punishment would impact his family and the suffering he said they’d already endured.

Both defendants will have to serve two years of supervised release after prison. Spota also paid a $100,000 fine as part of his punishment. His attorney, Alan Vinegrad, didn't respond to a request for comment Friday.

John Marzulli, a spokesman for Eastern District federal prosecutors who handled the case, declined to comment.

Neither defendant has admitted wrongdoing. Their lawyers contend the appeals from Spota and McPartland will present substantial questions of law that could result in a reversal or new trial — arguments that emerged as defense counsel sought to stave off their clients' incarcerations.

Among defense contentions is that the prosecution’s presentation of "bad acts" by Burke unfairly tilted the balance in favor of the government and invited the defendants’ convictions because of "guilt by association."

The defense also contends the prosecution was improperly allowed to elicit inflammatory testimony from police officers that they feared retaliation from Burke and Spota if they cooperated with federal investigators.

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