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Detective testifies he was ordered to scuttle arrest

Former Nassau Deputy Police Commissioner William Flanagan leaves

Former Nassau Deputy Police Commissioner William Flanagan leaves the Nassau County Court after hearing testimony in his misconduct trial in Mineola. (Jan. 24, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Police Det. Bruce Coffey said that when he visited John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore four years ago, his orders were to get the principal to sign a paper saying she didn't want to prosecute the son of a police benefactor who had stolen electronic equipment from the school.

But when he got there, he didn't have the heart to press her, he told a Nassau jury on Friday.

"She was very convincing. She was very upset. And she was pretty adamant in her desire to have him arrested," Coffey said of student Zachary Parker. "We're wired to follow the orders of our supervisor . . . but I also felt I had to show her some respect."

Coffey took the stand in the criminal misconduct trial of former Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan, under a cooperation agreement that shields him from prosecution.

Prosecutors say Flanagan and two other police commanders conspired to scuttle the arrest of Parker, son of police benefactor Gary Parker, of Merrick.

Flanagan, prosecutors said, used his influence to get the roughly $10,000 of equipment returned to the school, something Gary Parker believed ensured the school wouldn't pursue criminal charges.

Flanagan has said he did nothing for Zachary Parker, now 21, except return the stolen property to its owner.

An email from the high school principal, Lorraine Poppe, to Coffey a few days after the theft told Coffey to "put everything on hold" until further notice. Flanagan's lawyer, Bruce Barket, has argued that the email proves Poppe was ambivalent about arresting Parker, and that she -- not Flanagan or the other commanders -- effectively stopped his arrest.

On the stand Friday, Coffey denied receiving the email.

Barket also asked for a mistrial Friday, saying prosecutors have not shown that Flanagan broke the law. His motion was denied.

Coffey testified that in September 2009 he finally returned the equipment, but the school still did not sign the form withdrawing their request for prosecution.

About a year later, Coffey wrote a memo closing out the case.

He said he wrote that Poppe had not pursued the case because she had concerns about how it would affect Parker's younger sister, who had just started at the school. Coffey said his supervisor, then-Seventh Precinct Squad deputy supervisor Alan Sharpe, one of the other officers charged in the case, told him to change the report to say Poppe did not wish to have Zachary Parker arrested.

"Was that true?" prosecutor Christiana McSloy asked Coffey.

He answered that it was not.

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