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Merrick burglar at center of police scandal could be freed

Zachary Parker leaves the Nassau County Courthouse in

Zachary Parker leaves the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola. (Aug. 31, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Merrick burglar whose alleged preferential treatment by Nassau police led to the downfall of three top commanders is up for parole this week, according to the state prison system. And he could be freed only months into a 1 1/3 to 3 year prison sentence.

The burglar, Zachary Parker, 21, is locked up at the prison boot camp Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, in upstate Brocton. The boot-camp program rewards its graduates with freedom -- regardless of the sentence length a judge imposed -- after 6 months of labor, grueling physical drills, military-style discipline and counseling.

Parker was eligible for the program because of his nonviolent crime, his relatively short sentence and his age. Parker's parole hearing is set for this week, said prison system spokeswoman Carole Weaver.

Parker's burglary -- in 2009 of more than $10,000 in audiovisual equipment from his alma mater John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore -- began as a run-of-the-mill theft case. But it later exploded into scandal after his father, Nassau police benefactor Gary Parker, enlisted the help of his police brass buddies to prevent the younger man's arrest. Prosecutors have said that despite the demands of the school's principal, police refused to arrest Zachary Parker. Later, the district attorney's office convened a grand jury that indicted Parker for the burglary.

The burglary's collateral damage includes the three now-former commanders -- William Flanagan, deputy commissioner; John Hunter, a deputy patrol chief; and Alan Sharpe, a detective squad supervisor -- who were charged last March for their alleged roles in preventing the arrest. Flanagan was convicted last month of conspiracy and official misconduct misdemeanors but acquitted of a felony accusing him of accepting steakhouse gift cards from the Parker family. Hunter and Sharpe have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

Initially, Zachary Parker got a no-jail deal in exchange for pleading guilty. He broke the terms of his five-year probation by repeatedly driving even though a judge had suspended his license.

The judge, John Kase, ordered Parker to jail, revoked the deal and imposed the prison sentence. When Parker's attorney mentioned the boot camp, Kase expressed skepticism that the young man could successfully graduate.

Reached on Sunday, the attorney, Marc Gann, said he was under the impression that Parker's release wasn't this soon but regardless, the program has been beneficial.

"My understanding is that he has been completely compliant," Gann said. And "has taken some real life lessons out of this whole experience."

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