The co-defendant of former Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota asked Friday that he keep his high-powered attorney in their cover-up case at government expense.
U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler rapidly shot down the request, telling Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Christopher McPartland that “the court can’t have defendants pick their lawyers.”
Wexler said that he would appoint a lawyer, as is customary procedure by federal judges when a criminal defendant cannot afford an attorney.
Wexler acted after McPartland’s attorney, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Krantz of Manhattan, said that while he has been representing his client for the past two years through the investigation of the case and the indictment, they could “not anymore” agree on payment for his services.
Krantz asked that he be allowed to continue at government expense to represent McPartland. After denying that request, Wexler said he planned to appoint an attorney for McPartland based on the confidential financial statement McPartland had submitted.
Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz then told the judge that if he was to consider appointing a new attorney for McPartland the government would like to submit in confidence a list of the defense attorneys on Long Island who are normally considered highly qualified to represent impoverished defendants because many of them are already representing people involved in the case.
Treinis Gatz, and the other federal prosecutor in the case, John Durham, have previously said they have numerous potential government witnesses in the case from both the Suffolk police department and district attorney’s office.
Newsday recently reported that McPartland, the former head of Spota’s anti-corruption unit, received $73,000 in bonuses between 2012 and 2017 from the district attorney’s seized asset forfeiture funds. He was among many prosecutors to receive a bonus, which created some controversy and reportedly an ongoing federal investigation.
McPartland earned $194,000 in 2017, records show.
A prominent experienced attorney representing someone in a high-profile criminal case can often charge hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to represent a defendant, and can bill as much as $1,000-an-hour and more.
What Krantz has been charging McPartland is not public.
Federally appointed lawyers, known as CJA lawyers for the federal Criminal Justice Act, representing defendants get paid about $120-an-hour. While there are respected federal public defenders who work full time for the federal justice system, there are many fewer than are needed to represent criminal defendants.
The judge also set Jan. 26 for the next status conference in the Spota/McPartland case after Treinis Gatz said that the government had begun handing over discovery material to the defendants and would continue to do so.
Neither Krantz nor McParland commented after the brief hearing, nor did Spota and his defense attorney, Alan Vinegrad, a former acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District.
Federal prosecutors Treinis Gatz and Durham also declined to comment.
Spota, the longest serving district attorney in Suffolk history, and his key aide, McPartland, were charged in October with helping to cover up the 2012 beating of a man who had stolen a duffle bag from the SUV of a protégé of the district attorney’s, former Suffolk police chief James Burke.
Spota and McPartland, who had been head of the district attorney’s anti-corruption unit, pleaded not guilty to a four- count indictment charging each with: conspiracy to tamper with witnesses and obstruct an official proceeding; witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding; obstruction of justice; and accessory after the fact to the deprivation of civil rights, according to the indictment.
Both Spota, 76, of Mount Sinai, and McPartland, 51, of Northport, pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released on $500,000 bond. They theoretically face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, but would most likely get a much lesser sentence.
Burke is serving a 46-month term in federal prison for violating the civil rights of the person who took the duffle bag, Christopher Loeb, by assaulting him while he was restrained in a Suffolk police precinct, and then engaging in a cover-up of the action.