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Current and former police officers testify at Spota, McPartland trial

Suffolk police Det. Brian Draiss on Tuesday.

Suffolk police Det. Brian Draiss on Tuesday. Credit: John Roca


After two days of testimony centered largely on James Burke, former Suffolk police chief of department, prosecutors on Tuesday began to turn their attention to matters involving other current and former members of the Suffolk police force.

Det. Brian Draiss, who still works for the department, said he talked to Christopher Loeb's mother about items, including porn, wallets and credit cards, that officers found throughout the family's Smithtown home after it was raided in 2012.

"We don't even know these people," he quoted her as saying — which was enough for police to continue a search that ultimately turned up Burke's police belt and a DVD of pornography that police said belonged to Burke.

A photo that included the XXX-rated cover of that DVD was projected onto the courtroom's big screen at one point.

Takeout bag

Draiss also testified about seeing Burke pick up the Police Athletic League bag, which contained some of the items, including condoms, soap, clothing, Superior Officers Association cards and a cigar box, that Loeb had taken from his county-issued SUV.

"Is it common for a crime victim to come to a scene and remove their property?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Maffei asked.

"No," Draiss answered, "it is not."

Managing up

Draiss, who received a grant of immunity from prosecution, testified that he did not divulge the presence of sex toys in Burke's bag to prosecutors.

Why? Maffei asked.

"A whole host of things could happen to you if you embarrass a boss' boss' boss," Draiss testified.

“ … The department was very polarized at that time," Draiss said. "If you were against … [Burke] there would be retribution taken against you."

He later did tell prosecutors about the items, he said, upon advice from his attorney, Kevin Keating, who helped broker the immunity agreement.

And because, he said, during a later proceeding "that was the first time I was asked under oath that particular question."

Loose statements

At one point, Draiss was asked whether he had seen copies of notes from federal investigators — after Draiss had been called to a meeting by the Police Benevolent Association to talk about subpoenas being issued to Suffolk police by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

He said he saw a double-sided piece of paper that included notes FBI agents took from two other Suffolk officers.

"They had circulated," he said.

Indeed, the notes had.

"I was not happy to say the least," FBI special agent Jeremy Bell would testify later.

"Confidentiality is important to us … once they leave the federal government, we don't have control over them," he said. "I don't have control over where the documents end up."

Special agent Ryan Carey agreed: "I was a bit upset about it."

The notes, he added, "were not redacted to protect the identity of witnesses who were talking to us."

The wild, wild east

Both FBI agents, who worked out of New York City, were asked to describe where Suffolk County — where they had traveled to serve subpoenas and talk to Loeb — was.

"It's a few counties east, on Long Island," Carey said.

"It was quite a haul from where I was located," Bell said to laughter.

Dress like a detective

Suffolk police Lt. Michael Kelly was asked, at one point, by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justina Geraci about different policing units in the department.

Kelly said officers in plainclothes were easy to spot.

"Like, you don't have to get dressed up and work," he said, quickly adding, as smiles broke out around the courtroom. "You are dressed … but in jeans, boots … comfortable clothes."

Who are you?

Kelly testified that he talked to Burke at the Fourth Precinct on the day Burke beat Loeb. It was not a lengthy conversation, however.

"I told him I was Mike Kelly," Kelly said, "and he walked right on past me."

That was after Kelly, who had driven Loeb to the station, said he saw Burke and other Suffolk officers walk into an office where Loeb was handcuffed.

"I heard some yelling and then I heard a clap, or a snap," said Kelly, who testified under a grant of immunity.

Later, Kelly said, he heard Loeb tell a cellmate: "Some old guy in a suit slapped me."

"The old guy said he was a chief," Loeb said, according to the testimony.

The "old guy," Kelly said, was Burke.

House guests

When FBI agents later arrived to serve Kelly with a subpoena, he — after hearing repeated knocking on his door at 6 a.m. — invited them into his home and then walked into a room to call a union rep.

"I said, ‘There are FBI agents in my house,’ ” Kelly testified.

"No, they're not," he said Lou Tutone, a high-ranking PBA official, had replied.

"Yes, there are," Kelly said he said.

"Be polite," Tutone said, according to Kelly's testimony, "but tell them you have to call your attorney."

Later, under cross-examination from Vinegrad, Kelly acknowledged that in later years, agents would visit his house two more times.

"Hopefully, this is the last time," Vinegrad said.

"Hopefully," Kelly replied, dryly, "I'll never see anybody in this courtroom again."

"Touché," Vinegrad said as the room broke out in laughter.

Under pressure

The last witness of the day — who will continue under prosecution questioning Wednesday — was former Suffolk Det. Kenneth Bombace, who acknowledged being in the room when Burke and other officers assaulted Loeb.

He said he slapped Loeb and held him down in a chair as Burke screamed, cursed and assaulted the handcuffed prisoner.

In the months and years after, as the FBI and federal prosecutors moved in, Bombace testified, he and others in the Suffolk police department — including former police officers Anthony Leto and Michael Malone — were under "enormous pressure."

"The investigation, in general, it kind of consumed our lives," said Bombace, who also is testifying under a grant of immunity.

Reality (closed-circuit) TV

As for Loeb, he was back in the courthouse again on Tuesday, watching testimony by Kelly and Bombace from an overflow courtroom down the hall.

He heard Kelly's testimony about hearing sounds from the room where Loeb was being held.

And he heard Bombace's description of holding Loeb down as he was assaulted by Burke on Dec. 14, 2012.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Loeb said.

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