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William Flanagan: Just helping a friend

Retired Nassau County Police Depute Commissioner William Flanagan

Retired Nassau County Police Depute Commissioner William Flanagan talks about the accusations against him where he allegedly stopped the arrest of a police benefactor's son. (May 16, 2012) Credit: Newsday photo/Alejandra Villa

William Flanagan, the former high-ranking Nassau County police official indicted on conspiracy charges, said Wednesday he agreed to help a police benefactor's son as a routine courtesy that he would have done for any county resident.

In his first media interview since his March arrest, Flanagan, a retired second deputy commissioner, said his friend Gary Parker approached him at the first day of the U.S. Open in Bethpage in 2009 and asked for his help in a personal matter: Parker's son, Zachary, had stolen equipment from his high school. The police, who were investigating the incident, had the equipment and were dragging their feet returning it to the school. Flanagan said he'd look into the matter.

"I was not involved at all in whether someone got arrested or did not get arrested," Flanagan said in an interview at the office of his Garden City lawyer, Bruce Barket. "I wasn't even asked my opinion."

Flanagan and two other police commanders -- retired Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter and retired Seventh Precinct Squad Deputy Cmdr. Alan Sharpe -- were indicted in March on charges that they conspired to prevent the arrest of Zachary Parker.

According to the indictment, the conspiracy stemmed from the May 2009 theft of about $11,000 worth of electronic equipment from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore. Zachary Parker, 20, has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

The indictment says that Hunter, Flanagan, and Sharpe worked to return the property that Parker had stolen to persuade an administrator at the high school to refrain from pressing charges and to ensure that he avoided arrest.

Flanagan says the case is completely contrived. "I did nothing wrong. There is nothing that was problematic if you understand the context of what went on."

Flanagan said he called the school principal, Lorraine Poppe, at Gary Parker's request, and she explained that she needed the equipment back for a class. Flanagan said Poppe did not say anything about wanting to press charges against Parker. A spokeswoman for Poppe has said she couldn't comment while the case is pending.

"I said if we don't need it, then why not give it back? And that was my entire dive into this thing," he said.

Flanagan is also charged with accepting restaurant gift cards from Gary Parker. He admits that he received the gifts, but says they were not in exchange for preferential treatment, and he never cashed them in.

John Byrne, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, would not comment specifically on Flanagan's case but said: "We remain confident in the case against them which will be tried in a courtroom, not in the press."

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