The former head of the internal affairs unit of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department testified Wednesday that when he told former jail Lt. Edward Walsh that he was the target of a department investigation, Walsh strongly implied the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office would not get involved.
Now retired Sheriff’s Department Lt. Robert Kanas said Walsh, head of Suffolk County Conservative Party, brushed aside his remarks, saying to him that “that the other agency across the river, they are not going to do anything about this.”
Under questioning by federal prosecutor Catherine Mirabile, Kanas testified that, when the conversation took place in May 2014, he was sitting in the sheriff department’s internal affairs office in Riverhead on the Peconic River, with the district attorney’s office on the other side of the waterway.
Walsh has been on trial in federal court in Central Islip on charges of theft and fraud.
A defense attorney for Walsh, William Wexler of North Babylon, attempted to undermine Kanas’ credibility by noting that he had been selected for the prestigious job by Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, the man who reported Walsh’s conduct to federal prosecutors.
Wexler also noted that Kanas had been contributing to DeMarco’s re-election campaigns for sheriff until he retired. Kanas said he had no reason not to tell the truth and that his income dropped when he retired.
Eastern District prosecutors have tried unsuccessfully to get admitted into the trial what they said was evidence that the politically powerful Walsh felt he could get away with his allegedly illegal actions due to the protection of Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota. Walsh is accused of illegally making more than $200,000 by falsely billing for time and overtime he did not work at the jail.
The prosecutors unsuccessfully tried to get into evidence a list of 15 phone calls between Spota and Walsh between April and June of 2014, in a court filing to underscore their contention that the two had a close relationship.
But U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt previously has ruled that he would severely limit testimony about any political relationships, saying references to the defendant’s relationship with Spota are either irrelevant or too prejudicial.
Walsh’s attorneys previously contended DeMarco, a fellow Conservative Party member, went to federal authorities about Walsh’s work schedule as revenge for his declining to support the sheriff’s bid for a congressional seat.
DeMarco has maintained that he only went to authorities after Spota balked at cooperating with the sheriff’s investigation into Walsh’s conduct.
Spota’s spokesman has said that it was DeMarco who failed to cooperate with the office. The spokesman, Robert Clifford, said that DeMarco canceled several appointments with district attorney investigators to talk about Walsh.
Wednesday, a spokesman for Spota issued a statement saying “there will be no comment during the course of the trial.”
In other testimony Wednesday, a cellphone expert for the government, Eduardo Orellana of ISR in Manhattan, explained charts he prepared that showed where Walsh was at various times, based on his cellphone records.
The government apparently plans to use the cellphone locations to show that Walsh was either golfing or attending Conservative Party functions while he submitted time slips for working at the jail.
Orellana said that the records could not exactly locate an individual, but could give a good approximation because of the information recorded on a nearby cellphone tower the phone was accessing.
Defense attorney Leonard Lato, however, in cross-examination, maintained there was disagreement among experts on the accuracy of locating a person by using cellphone records.