The state’s highest court on Thursday unanimously upheld the conviction of former Nassau County Police Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan, who refused to press charges for theft of electronic equipment against a student with connections to the department.
Flanagan was convicted of conspiracy and two counts of official misconduct stemming from the 2009 theft of $11,000 worth of computers and electronic equipment from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore.
Although there was video evidence, an eyewitness and the principal still had to press hard for an arrest. But Flanagan never charged the suspect, Kennedy student Zachary Parker.
At the time, Parker was an intern with the police department. His father, Gary Parker, was described by the court as “a longtime benefactor of the NCPD who regularly entertained high-ranking members of the department.”
Flanagan, who is retired, was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 60 days in jail. He also was fined $1,000.
In his appeal, Flanagan argued that he couldn’t be convicted of misconduct for actions he believed were discretionary for police as they investigate crimes.
But in a 6-0 ruling, the court said, “contrary to defendant’s claim, this was not a failure of an officer to perform a discretionary duty, but a disavowal of a sworn duty by a public official.”
Flanagan “and his accomplices sought to avoid the inexorable result that performance of such duty would have produced,” the decision said. “Thus, the evidence was sufficient to prove that defendant committed the crime of official misconduct by nonfeasance when he directed his accomplice officers to refrain from performing their fundamental duty to investigate a crime, a duty inherent in the nature of their office.”
According to court papers, one detective was told that “higher-ups” at the police department didn’t want an arrest, but that the high school principal was “adamant” the suspect — who was already suspended from school for the incident — be arrested.
A detective later made it “abundantly clear” to Det. Bruce Coffey when he was brought into the case “that there would be no arrest in this case and that Coffey was to obtain a withdrawal of prosecution,” the court record stated.
“The principal expressed frustration with how the department was handling the case. In one email she remarked, ‘I assume that [Z.P.] has not been arrested, since it is clear that the police want to bury this case,’ ” the court decision said.
After the police department appeared to have prohibited arrest of the 17-year-old suspect, the teen’s father emailed Flanagan and said: “Thank you!”
The court record stated that Flanagan responded: “De Nada family.” The mother of the suspect soon after sent Flanagan gift cards, the court record stated.
Flanagan’s attorney said she will seek a re-argument of the case.
“We are disappointed in the decision, and we intend to seek re-argument and pursue every legal avenue available to continue to challenge this conviction,” said Donna Aldea of the Barket, Marion, Epstein & Kearon firm in Garden City.
The case came to light as Flanagan was retiring and had to formally close the case in the police department’s computer system and after a news article story by the Long Island Press.
“William Flanagan tarnished the badge and betrayed his oath when he illegally intervened to scuttle the arrest of a benefactor’s son,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “The defendant egregiously misused his power and influence as a high-ranking police officer. We will not tolerate corruption in Nassau County.”