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Judge denies Spota, McPartland's bail request during appeal

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and

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

A federal judge has ordered former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota and an ex-aide of his to surrender to prison officials in December after denying their motion to stay free on bail while appealing their corruption convictions.

U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack said in a decision Friday that Spota and his former anti-corruption chief, Christopher McPartland, didn't raise substantial questions of law that were likely to result in a reversal or new trial — one of the standards for deciding such a motion.

The judge did grant a recent request by McPartland's lawyer, Larry Krantz, to delay his client's Nov. 10 surrender date to Dec. 10 — which also is the date for Spota's surrender.

The Manhattan attorney had argued in part that a month's delay would help provide "adequate time to seek bail before the Second Circuit," a higher federal court, if Azrack denied the defense's bail motion.

Krantz also had said a surrender delay would allow the defense to work with the Bureau of Prisons to try to change McPartland's custody assignment from a low-security prison to a minimum-security "camp facility," as he said Azrack had recommended for McPartland's incarceration.

Federal prosecutors had opposed the defendants' attempts to remain free on bail pending their appeals and McPartland's request for a delayed surrender. They said in court papers that McPartland actually had been assigned to a "camp facility" and the defense had it "backwards."

A spokesman for Eastern District prosecutors declined to comment on Friday's ruling. Both Spota's attorney, Alan Vinegrad, and Krantz didn't return calls seeking comment.

In August, Azrack sentenced both Spota, 80, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 55, of Northport, to five years in prison. The sentencing followed their 2019 convictions on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and acting as accessories to the deprivation of prisoner Christopher Loeb's civil rights.

By its verdict, the jury decided Spota and McPartland orchestrated a cover-up of Loeb's 2012 beating by then-Police Chief James Burke and three detectives. The beating happened in a Hauppauge police precinct after Loeb, then a heroin addict, stole a duffel bag from Burke's department vehicle that had items inside it that included his gun belt and ammunition, along with pornography, Viagra 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.

In ruling on the bail motion, Azrack rejected defense arguments that criticized decisions she made about evidence in the case.

Spota's attorneys had argued evidence Azrack admitted of "bad acts by Mr. Burke" had invited the defendants' convictions based on "guilt by association."

The former district attorney's defense team also had said the prosecution "repeatedly elicited inflammatory testimony from police officers" that they feared retaliation from Burke and Spota if they cooperated with federal investigators.

Spota's motion for bail, which McPartland joined in, also claimed that the prosecution slandered Spota's former chief assistant prosecutor, Emily Constant, by accusing her during closing arguments of "being complicit" in the cover-up of Loeb's assault.

But Azrack said in Friday's ruling that for a successful appeal, the defendants would have to show her evidentiary rulings were an abuse of the considerable discretion that federal district court judges have in deciding what to admit or exclude at trial.

The judge also wrote that she "curtailed" the testimony of police officer witnesses "in various respects." While quoting from the trial's closing arguments, Azrack also said in her ruling that the prosecution hadn't identified Constant as a co-conspirator.

Another recent filing in the court case shows Spota has paid the $100,000 fine the judge levied against him as part of his sentence.

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