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Federal judge gives Tankleff, Suffolk time to settle suit

2009 lawsuit against county claims detectives who investigated the murder fabricated false confession, suppressed evidence.

Martin Tankleff arrives at federal court in Central

Martin Tankleff arrives at federal court in Central Islip with his wife, Laurie, on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A federal judge gave attorneys for Martin Tankleff and Suffolk County until the end of the year to reach a settlement in a malicious-prosecution suit.

Tankleff, 46, now on the verge of becoming an attorney himself, served 17 years in prison after he was convicted of the 1988 murders of his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff — one of the most notorious crimes in Long Island history. An appellate court freed Tankleff in December of 2001, ruling that a Suffolk judge failed to consider evidence that others actually committed the murders. The state attorney general’s office, which had taken over the case from the Suffolk district attorney’s office, then declined to prosecute him again.

Tankleff’s suit against the county, filed in 2009, claims detectives who investigated the murder fabricated a false confession and suppressed evidence against him. After years of motions and depositions of witnesses, federal Magistrate Judge Anne Shields certified the case Monday as ready for trial in Central Islip. But first, she asked if a trial would be necessary.

“Is there any interest in settlement?” she asked. “Where are we are we on that?”

Emma Freudenberger of Manhattan, one of Tankleff’s lawyers, broke a brief silence.

“Your honor, there haven’t been any talks on that,” she said. Freudenberger suggested Tankleff might be open to mediation if there were hope of a settlement.

Assistant County Attorney Brian Mitchell did not respond in court, nor did he comment afterward.

Tankleff, who attended the conference, said he is open to settling the case.

“A fair resolution of the case is what I’m looking for,” he said.

He declined to say what he considered to be fair, but Freudenberger suggested that two recent malicious-prosecution cases that went to trial in the metropolitan area could be a guide. They both resulted in verdicts of more than $40 million each.

“Obviously, we’re happy to chat” with the county, said another Tankleff attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City.

“But if they don’t want to chat, that’s fine,” said Barry Scheck, another Tankleff attorney. “We’re happy to go to go trial, too.”

If there is a trial, lawyers said it likely would be in June and last about two weeks.

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