The Smithtown heroin addict who was beaten and threatened by former Suffolk police Chief of Department James Burke will be freed Tuesday after a special prosecutor agrees to vacate his conviction, his attorney said Monday.
Burke’s beating of Christopher Loeb — and the extensive cover-up he orchestrated — led to Burke’s resignation, getting sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, numerous sealed guilty pleas by other Suffolk police officials involved in the cover-up, and an investigation that has targeted officials in the office of Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, Burke’s friend and mentor.
Loeb, 30, pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon after a pretrial hearing in 2013 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. The plea came after a pretrial hearing in which several officers and detectives testified under oath that they didn’t see Burke beat Loeb.
Loeb’s attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City, sought to vacate the plea because it was the result of perjured testimony by police. Once state Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro sets aside the plea, based on an agreement by both sides, Loeb will face trial on the original charges unless they are dismissed. Barket said Loeb will never plead guilty again.
“We look forward to Chris’ complete exoneration,” Barket said. “This is a significant step.”
Attorney William Ferris, who is serving as a special prosecutor in the case because of Burke’s ties to Spota, declined to comment.
“The police — including the chief of police — tampered with physical evidence, filed false police reports and lied to prosecutors and a judge,” Barket said.
Suffolk police did not respond to requests for comment.
When Burke pleaded guilty last year in federal court to violating Loeb’s civil rights and covering it up, he said Loeb accurately described how Burke treated him. Loeb had broken into Burke’s police vehicle and stole a duffel bag that he said contained “disgusting pornography,” a gun belt without a gun and other items.
Burke took his property back before it could be kept as evidence and later beat Loeb and threatened to kill him.