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Long IslandPolitics

Suffolk GOP leaders want Spota to quit, but Democrats hedge

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is shown

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota is shown at his Hauppauge office on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Republican leaders urged District Attorney Thomas Spota to resign while top Democrats hedged their comments after Sheriff Vincent DeMarco called on Spota to step down following criminal convictions and investigations into county law enforcement.

In an opinion piece published online in Newsday Monday, DeMarco said Spota, a Democrat, has become part of the “culture of cronyism and corruption” Spota campaigned against when he first ran for office 15 years ago.

“I have lost confidence in his objectivity and judgment, and feel obligated to request a special prosecutor for criminal cases that would typically be sent by my office to Spota’s for prosecution,” DeMarco, a Conservative Party member, wrote.

Among the cases DeMarco cited was that of former county police chief of department James Burke, a Spota protège, who pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating burglary suspect Christopher Loeb’s civil rights and orchestrating a cover-up of the crime.

Spota said in a statement: “Do I regret supporting James Burke? Of course. Do I take responsibility for his assault on Christopher Loeb and the cover up of his crime? I do not.” Spota accused DeMarco of “spreading half-truths and innuendo” and said “his attempt to force the highest elected law enforcement official from office with neither fact nor proof is nothing short of frightening.”

Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), the minority leader, said Spota has been tarnished.

“It’s time for Tom Spota to resign. We need to restore confidence in our justice system in Suffolk County,” McCaffrey said.

Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said Spota “has lost control of his office. The chief of public corruption is being investigated by the federal government for public corruption.” Newsday has reported top corruption prosecutor, Christopher McPartland, is the target of a federal grand jury. Spota has said he stands by McPartland.

Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone stopped short of calling for Spota’s resignation. Last week, Newsday reported that Spota vouched for Burke as Bellone considered hiring him in 2011, after Bellone had received an anonymous letter warning about Burke’s character. Bellone said Monday, “It is clear that the District Attorney lied to me, he lied to the Sheriff when he selectively refused to prosecute Ed Walsh and most importantly he has lied to the public to whom he swore an oath.”

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said, “I think both DeMarco and Spota are good public servants and have done their jobs. It’s unfortunate they have this public disagreement, but at this point I’m not ready to ask for the district attorney’s resignation.”

Suffolk Democratic Chairman Richard Schaffer declined to comment.

DeMarco wrote that Spota tried to block sheriff’s investigations into county Conservative chairman and corrections lieutenant Edward Walsh, who was convicted this year in federal court of charging the county for more than $200,000 in overtime and straight pay for time he didn’t work.

Spota, in his statement, said DeMarco’s claim that the District Attorney’s Office “is a nest of political corruption is a despicable lie.” He also said, “If the Sheriff believes I should take responsibility for Burke’s crimes, why shouldn’t DeMarco bear responsibility for the crimes of Edward Walsh? What is the difference? None.”

DeMarco, in an interview, said the difference is, “as soon as it was brought to my attention, I investigated it. Spota interfered.”

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