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Pretrial testimony begins in Loeb case

A Suffolk probation officer testified Wednesday that plans to search the home on Dec. 14 of a Smithtown man accused of stealing a duffel bag from Suffolk Police Chief of Department James Burke's vehicle had already been set up because of a set of brass knuckles she found at his home a month earlier.

Francine Ruggiero testified at a pretrial hearing she filed a "violation of probation" last November because Christopher Loeb was not complying with the conditions of his probation. The violation resulted in the home visit by Ruggiero and another probation officer.

Loeb was on probation for an April 2012 grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property conviction.

During the Nov. 16 home visit, Ruggiero said Loeb's mother allowed her to enter the home about 11 a.m., and she headed straight to his bedroom. There, she said she found Loeb's brother Frank, who told her Loeb had been in the bathroom since 5 a.m.

When Loeb came out of the bathroom, she described him as looking "pale, his jaw was kind of tight. . . . Something medically was going on that I was not sure of."

At that point, she testified that she called for police assistance but not before learning that a set of brass knuckles she spotted on a nightstand belonging to Loeb, violating the terms of his supervision. "He said he brought them from downstairs and he was twirling them with his fingers," Ruggiero said, adding that police later called an ambulance and Loeb was taken to a hospital. Loeb's mother Jane has said the brass knuckles were discovered the day her son overdosed on drugs. Ruggiero told the court she wanted Loeb to get medical attention first and be charged at a later date.

Loeb was not arrested at that time. "After I secured them, I wanted Christopher Loeb to seek medical attention," Ruggiero testified.

"I know that I can place the knuckles in police evidence. He could be later charged at a later date." The brass knuckles were kept at the Fourth Precinct as evidence, she said.

Ruggiero testified she was given the approval to press charges on the brass knuckles on Nov. 19. She told special prosecutor Peter Crusco that on Dec. 12, Loeb failed to report again to his probation officer. Ruggiero said she was coordinating with others to arrest Loeb on Dec. 13 and conduct a narcotics and weapons search of his home, but it was pushed to the next day.

State Supreme Court Justice Martin Efman heard the testimony. Loeb, 27, was indicted Dec. 28 on nearly 30 counts. He is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument.

He was being held on $500,000 bail until he was taken into federal custody as a material witness in June, days after Newsday reported he claimed he was beaten by Burke in December. Sources said Burke is under investigation by federal officials to see if he violated Loeb's civil rights. Burke was at Loeb's home the morning of the search to identify property just hours after police said they were taken from his vehicle, including a duffel bag containing Burke's gun belt, ammunition, handcuffs, cigars and other items.

The hearing and cross-examination of witnesses is expected to continue Thursday in Riverhead.

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