Shall we dance
"Isn't it a fact, Mr. Hickey, that you testified to a number of important facts in this courtroom that you had never told the government?" Larry Krantz, the lead attorney for Christopher McPartland, former head of the Suffolk County district attorney's office anti-corruption bureau, asked.
The lawyer attempted repeatedly to get former Suffolk Det. Lt. James Hickey to say he gave prosecutors information in meetings when he agreed to cooperate with them — only to later volunteer information that was even more damaging to McPartland and his boss, former county District Attorney Thomas Spota.
"That is not a fact," Hickey replied. "Everything I said in the courtroom I said to the government.
"I understand what you are trying to get me to say," Hickey remarked a few questions later.
On Tuesday afternoon, Alan Vinegrad, Spota's lead attorney, took his turn at bat against Hickey.
“You believed the government would be interested in anything you could tell them about [former Suffolk police Chief of Department James] Burke and the three detectives and others, including Mr. Spota, correct?”
“I was going to testify truthfully and honestly," Hickey told Vinegrad, as he had told Krantz earlier in the day.
"I had no idea who else the federal government had in their investigation, who else was cooperating,” Hickey said.
To tell the truth
Besides, Hickey told both defense lawyers, he did not want to get caught in a lie.
"I would be covering up for people again," he testified, "and I wasn't going to do that again."
On redirect, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz asked, "Did anyone tell you to tailor your story or to make it better or to add things?"
"Absolutely not," Hickey replied.
Early on, Vinegrad hammered hard at Hickey's involvement in the 1990 arrest of a Wyandanch man, Erroll Freeman.
In 1992, a Suffolk judge dismissed an indictment against Freeman after finding, among other things, that he did not consider testimony from Hickey and his partner to be credible.
Neither the prosecution nor the defense probed deeply into the case during questioning, sticking instead to the judge's findings — and those of police internal affairs investigators that Hickey had lied in court, and to internal affairs officers.
But an April 1992 Newsday report on the dismissal included plentiful details:
"For the first time in 16 months, Erroll Freeman had dinner with the 2-year-old daughter he hardly knows. But eating was hard since he has no front teeth.
Freeman lost them and damaged nerves in his wrist, he said, when two Suffolk County police officers took him to a remote area in Wyandanch and beat a confession out of him in December, 1990.
In an unusual move Wednesday, Suffolk County Court Judge Stuart Namm dismissed burglary charges against Freeman, 38, of West Babylon, saying that court testimony supporting the man's allegations that he had been beaten by arresting officers undermined the credibility of the two officers who have a history of prior complaints … "
At the time, police didn't make Hickey or his partner, Michael Crowley, available for interviews, saying they intended to appeal the judge's ruling.
On Tuesday, Vinegrad asked Hickey if his partner, back then, had a nickname.
"Fat man," Hickey replied.
"And yours was?" Vinegrad went on.
"Rat man," Hickey replied.
Lies and more lies
"Internal affairs found that you lied in your testimony in court," Vinegrad said.
"Correct," Hickey replied.
“ … Internal affairs found that you lied to them, to IAD and its investigator at the time, correct?" Vinegrad asked.
"Correct," Hickey replied.
Such findings, Vinegrad went on, are "a very unusual occurrence, yes?"
"Yes," Hickey agreed.
"You understand that it is a very big deal, correct?" Vinegrad pressed.
"Correct," Hickey said.
Never, ever on a work day
Vinegrad questioned Hickey about affairs he had with four women, two of whom he supervised in the police department.
Vinegrad and Hickey agreed they would be referred to as Woman Number One, Woman Number Two, Woman Number Three and Woman Number Four.
Each time, the line of questioning was similar, with Vinegrad asking whether Hickey had ever met with paramours on company time.
"Never during office hours," he said for Woman Number One, "never, ever on company time."
"Never on working days," Hickey said of Woman Number Two.
"Did you ever carry on while on duty?" Vinegrad asked, referring to Woman Number Three.
"No, I did not," Hickey replied.
The same question — and reply — held for Woman Number Four, as well.
Each time, Vinegrad also asked Hickey whether he had lied to his wife, and lied to her multiple times.
"Yes," Hickey said.
"Did you have a personal relationship with Mr. Spota?" Vinegrad asked.
"Yes," Hickey replied.
"Have you met his wife?"
"Has he met your wife?"
“ … Yes."
"Has he met your children?"
"I don't know about my children."
Have you ever gone with Spota to a restaurant?
No, no and no, came Hickey's replies.
"Have you gone swimming with him?" Vinegrad asked.
"No," Hickey replied.
"He's a big swimmer," Vinegrad said, "did you know that?"
At that, the prosecution raised an objection — which U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack sustained.
On redirect, Gatz asked whether Hickey went with Spota to Butterfields, a restaurant near the district attorney's office in Hauppauge.
"Did you go to Butterfields with him and hang out at the bar?" Gatz asked.
"Yes," Hickey replied, "Quite often."
Vinegrad, seeking specificity about how many conversations Hickey had with Spota between 2013 and 2015, at one point asked about bathrooms in the district attorney's building.
"Did you ever have a conversation with Tom Spota when you were both in the bathroom?" Vinegrad asked.
"If I was using the urinal and he was using the sink," Hickey replied.
"One time, in the bathroom?" Vinegrad pressed in an effort to get Hickey to offer a number for how many times Spota — as Hickey had testified earlier — had asked about whether Hickey's detectives still were going along with the cover-up of Christopher Loeb's beating by Burke.
"I'd be exiting the bathroom," Hickey said. "I think it was usual that I would be exiting the bathroom and he was coming out of his office."
That, as Vinegrad and Krantz had before him had pointed out, did not answer the question.
"Did you know Mr. Spota has a private bathroom in his private office that is only accessible from his office?" Vinegrad asked.
"I'm sure he does," Hickey replied. "I've never been in it."
"What is a kickline," Azrack asked during an exchange between Vinegrad and Hickey about a 2015 meeting at Smithtown High School.
"It's like the Rockettes," Hickey answered.
"Rockettes for high school?" Vinegrad asked.
"Rockettes for high school," Hickey agreed.
He then went on to clear up a misconception from earlier testimony about his going to the school to support a daughter who was on the kickline.
"So, she was not leading the kickline," Hickey explained.
He was there to support his daughter because, he said, "she was leaving the kickline."
Azrack, who earlier had asked Vinegrad to stay behind the lectern when questioning Hickey, used the occasion to make the request again, joking about Vinegrad's again "leaving the podium."
At which point, Vinegrad stepped in front of the lectern, joking, "I am leading the podium, your honor."
Earlier, Krantz had pressed Hickey on his actions after being hospitalized in 2013 for alcoholism.
"Doctors prescribed in patient treatment," Krantz said. Did you get inpatient treatment?
"No," Hickey answered.
"Did you ever get any out patient treatment?"
"You decided you would go it on your own?" Krantz asked.
"Yes," Hickey, said, emphatically, "I did."
"Did you ever get drunk?" Krantz asked at one point.
"No," Hickey answered, "I think that was the problem."
"Did you ever get hung over?" Krantz pressed.
"No, not really," Hickey said, explaining that he had been drinking so heavily in 2013 that his system may have built up a tolerance for alcohol.
"I never thought I had a problem," Hickey said a short time later, "until I had a problem, which was the problem."
Hickey was asked, repeatedly, about the cooperation deal he had with the government, under which he pleaded guilty to obstruction to justice.
"Pleading to a felony is a big decision," Gatz said, during redirect. "Why did you do it?"
"Because I was guilty," Hickey replied.
Why did you cover up the Loeb beating for three and a half years, the prosecutor pressed on.
"I thought we had no option," he said, "that if I refused, I would be in even more peril."