A sister and niece of the former Hempstead police officer accused of attempting to rob a cocaine dealer testified Thursday as defense witnesses in the officer's effort to chip away at the government's case that could land him a life sentence, if convicted.

The former police officer, Brian Jones, 40, is accused of conspiracy to interfere in interstate commerce and using a weapon in a crime of violence. Jones previously has been convicted of dealing in oxycodone and served five months in prison.

Eastern District prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz, who rested the government's case in federal court in Central Islip earlier in the day, had argued that Jones staged the robbery because he needed money after being suspended without pay in February of 2008. Jones had been suspended when it was discovered that he had faked an injury to his right hand, Gatz said. Jones had been on paid leave since December of 2007 because of the supposed injury.

The suspension occurred after Jones wrapped a chain around the supposedly injured right hand and bashed in two windows of a car of another man, prosecutor Gatz said. A girlfriend of Jones was sitting in the car, Gatz said.

Gatz also has said that cellphone records showed that Jones had called the niece's then-boyfriend just before the robbery.

The boyfriend, Jumar Tucker, has testified for the government that Jones called him before the robbery and asked him to take part in what turned out to be a botched stickup of people living in two apartments in a Far Rockaway building.

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Testifying in behalf of her brother, Shirley Martin said Jones did not need money, and had not faked the hand injury. She said her brother had trouble with his right hand doing simple tasks such as using a knife and fork.

Martin's daughter Michelle testified that she had lost her cellphone, and so she often used the cell of her then boyfriend, Tucker. She said her uncle, Jones, often called her, and that the call the government claims was made to the boyfriend before the robbery was more likely made to her.