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Newsday files to intervene in Levy appeal of document's release

Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy speaks in

Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy speaks in March 2012. Credit: Ed Betz

Newsday has filed to appeal a lower-court decision denying it intervenor status in a case that seeks the release of former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s non-prosecution agreement.

Levy has filed to appeal a July 16 ruling by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Paul Baisley ordering the document be turned over to Newsday in 10 days. A state appellate judge last week ordered a stay on the release until at least Aug. 2.

Newsday’s filing on Tuesday seeks to appeal a decision by Baisley denying Newsday intervenor status in the case as moot, since he’d already ordered the document to be turned over and all documents in the lower-court case unsealed.

Newsday had filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the 2011 document in February and Levy sued in May to block Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini’s office from releasing it. In recently unsealed court documents, Levy said release of the agreement, which followed a 16-month criminal investigation by former District Attorney Thomas Spota, would "devastate" his professional career.

After Baisley ruled the agreement must be released, Levy filed a notice of appeal in the state Appellate Division, seeking a delay as he prepared arguments for a permanent sealing of the agreement, which required Levy to forfeit his $4 million campaign fund and not seek reelection.

On July 23, state Appellate Division Associate Justice Cheryl Chambers ordered the document and other materials in the case temporarily blocked from release, at least until Suffolk County files opposition papers by Aug. 2.

David Besso, an attorney for Levy, in a statement Monday indicated Levy would again seek a "compromise" agreement with the district attorney’s office for "some disclosure" of the agreement "if sealing could protect legitimate privacy interests violated by the invasive spying conducted in the attempted coup" of Levy.

A spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office declined comment. The district attorney’s case is being argued by Suffolk County Attorney Dennis Cohen.

Newsday filed the FOIL request for the agreement in February, citing the high public interest and Levy’s own statements about it in a 2020 Newsday opinion piece in which he downplayed the allegations and said he regretted having signed the agreement. Newsday has also filed a request for all investigative materials in the case, which Chambers also ordered temporarily withheld in her July 23 decision.

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