Two former Nassau police commanders accused of using their positions to stop the arrest of a police benefactor's son asked a judge to dismiss the charges Monday, saying they have new evidence that undermines the prosecutors' case.
Retired Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Seventh Precinct Squad Deputy Cmdr. Alan Sharpe were indicted in March on charges of conspiracy and official misconduct in connection with a burglary case against former John F. Kennedy High School student Zachary Parker, 20 -- the son of a Nassau police benefactor.
Lawyers for the two retired commanders said in court papers that the school's principal emailed the school superintendent on May 22, 2009, saying she told police to "put everything on hold" until further notice.
A short time later, Principal Lorraine Poppe emailed a detective on the case to say school officials were unsure whether they wanted Parker arrested or would handle the matter internally. Poppe later declined to sign a non-prosecution agreement against Parker and has said that she never directed police not to prosecute.
However, lawyers for Hunter, Sharpe and the third indicted police official say there is no written evidence of any such wishes and they believed school officials wanted to resolve the matter themselves.
The lawyers said that even if Poppe did tell someone verbally that the school wished to prosecute, it would be difficult to prove that the message made it to their clients.
"These emails undermine the indictment on its face," said Hunter's lawyer, William Petrillo, of Rockville Centre. "They prove that within 72 hours, the school district was already wavering as to whether or not they wanted to proceed criminally."
Petrillo and Sharpe's lawyer, Anthony Grandinette, of Mineola, argued in court papers that if the grand jury did not have Poppe's emails before it voted to indict their clients, the indictments should be tossed, because they were based on incomplete and misleading information.
The third defendant in the case, retired Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan, is expected to file a motion to dismiss Tuesday, said his lawyer, Bruce Barket, of Garden City.
John Byrne, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, declined to comment Monday. Michelle Gagnon, a spokeswoman for the Bellmore-Merrick Central High school district, where the high school is located, also declined to comment.
In March, a Nassau grand jury indicted Hunter, Sharpe and Flanagan on conspiracy and misconduct charges. The indictment states that over the spring and summer of 2009, the three men and unnamed others worked to return the electronics equipment, valued at $11,000, that Parker had stolen -- an effort to persuade a school administrator not to press charges and to ensure that he avoided arrest.
The indictment states Sharpe and an unidentified co-conspirator entered a memo in the department's computer system that falsely asserted a school administrator, on behalf of the district, did not wish to press charges in the May 2009 burglary.
Petrillo and Grandinette now say that their clients were operating on the understanding that the school district did not want to pursue charges.
"That school district had, in fact, communicated to police early in the investigation a strong desire to pursue alternative resolutions other than arrest," Grandinette said. "This was not a secretive conspiracy."