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Witness: Police chief sought 'good word' for theft suspect

Zachary Parker leaves the Nassau County Courthouse after

Zachary Parker leaves the Nassau County Courthouse after being sentenced in Mineola, New York. (Sept. 19, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Nassau police officer testified Monday that a chief in the department asked him to call his aunt, a high school principal, and "put in a good word for" the son of a police benefactor who had stolen electronics equipment from her school.

Kyle Poppe said he was "shocked," when then-Deputy Chief of Patrol John Hunter texted him in May 2009 and asked him to get in touch.

Hunter then asked Kyle Poppe to contact his aunt, Lorraine Poppe, principal of John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore. Lorraine Poppe has testified she was asked to sign a form declaring the school would not press theft charges against Zachary Parker, son of police benefactor Gary Parker.

"He wanted me to talk to my aunt to put in a good word for this young man," Kyle Poppe testified yesterday at the misconduct trial of another former police commander, retired Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan.

Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey was in the Mineola courtroom Monday, sitting among Flanagan's supporters. Mulvey left before the day's testimony was over, but in the past he has strongly defended Flanagan.

Prosecutors say Flanagan, Hunter and a third police official, then-Seventh Precinct Squad Deputy Supervisor Alan Sharpe, improperly used their influence to pressure Lorraine Poppe not to press charges against Zachary Parker for stealing about $10,000 worth of electronics equipment from the school in May 2009. Earlier in the trial, Gary Parker testified he had confided to Hunter, a close friend, about his son's theft, and asked Hunter to put in a good word for his son.

Parker was never arrested by police, but Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice later presented his case to a grand jury, which indicted him. He pleaded guilty last year, and is now serving 1 to 3 years in upstate prison for the crime.

Hunter's lawyer, William Petrillo, of Rockville Centre, said Kyle Poppe's testimony is not evidence of any crime. "There has not been one witness, including Officer Poppe, who said anything that suggests any criminality at all."

Kyle Poppe testified that he refused the request. "I said she is not the type of person to be influenced," he testified.

Aida Leisenring, a lawyer for Flanagan, questioned Kyle Poppe about whether, during the investigation, the officer had been shown an email written by Flanagan saying "not so flattering," things about him. Kyle Poppe said he could not remember, and the judge did not permit Leisenring to ask more questions on the subject.

Flanagan has maintained he did not try to influence whether Zachary Parker was prosecuted, but simply helped to get the equipment returned to the school. Flanagan says this is something he would have done for anyone, not just Gary Parker, who he concedes was a friend.

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