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Defense for ex-DA: Prosecution brushed off defense bid for new trial

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and

Former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, left, and his former aide Christopher McPartland. Credit: Composite photo: Barry Sloan, left, and James Carbone

Attorneys for former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and a chief aide say federal prosecutors have failed to adequately respond to their arguments that their clients deserve a new trial because of false testimony by the government’s key witness.

Their assertions, filed in papers in federal court in Central Islip, are the latest round in the sparring between defense attorneys and prosecutors before the June sentencing of Spota and Christopher McPartland.      

Spota, 78, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 54, of Northport, the former head of the district attorney’s corruption bureau, were convicted in December of masterminding the cover-up of the beating of a shackled prisoner by former Suffolk police chief James Burke, a protégé of Spota.

The defense attorneys say if U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack does not grant them a new trial, they at least want a hearing to prove the government’s key witness, former Suffolk police Lt. James Hickey, committed perjury during the trial. If perjury could be proven, it could lead to a new trial, defense attorneys contend.

Hickey headed the police department’s intelligence unit and was close to Burke, Spota and McParland.

In previous papers, Spota and McPartland argued in February that Hickey lied on the witness stand because while he testified that he told the government about several matters almost as soon as he began cooperating, they are not reflected in his extensive debriefings.

The defense papers say that Hickey only recounted some of those matters as long as four years after he began cooperating.

Among them are a key meeting in February 2013 in which McPartland and Burke allegedly came up with a false cover story about what Burke could say about his encounter with the beating victim, Christopher Loeb. Another point had to do with Hickey's admission to prosecutors that he had brief hospitalizations for alcoholism and hallucinations.

Though the defense had made similar assertions in papers in February, they say the government’s reply papers in April brushed off the defense by saying that Hickey was telling the truth without further explanation.

The defense attorneys say, in effect, federal prosecutors did not give an in-depth reply to Spota and McPartland’s claim, instead essentially denying Hickey was lying and saying the jury believed him. Prosecutors also said whatever issues the defense brings up now were already available to them for cross examination during the trial, the defense said.

“In its opposition papers, the government largely ignores these serious allegations of falsity and misconducts,” the defense attorneys said.

The defense papers were signed only by McPartland’s attorneys, Larry Krantz and Bradley Gershel. Spota’s attorney, Alan Vinegrad, said Monday he joined in the motion for his client, but his name was inadvertently left off. Vinegrad declined to comment further.

The spokesman for the Eastern District, John Marzulli, declined to comment.

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