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From the archives: Ex-Detective chief Indicted; Gallagher accused of falsifying Suffolk police record to help son

This article was originally published in Newsday on February 2, 1988.

John Gallagher, former chief of detectives of the Suffolk Police Department, was indicted yesterday on felony charges of falsifying police records to help his son escape a jail sentence for cocaine dealing.

The indictment also charged Police Officer Albert Sinram, 37, with a misdemeanor count of official misconduct, for drawing up - at John Gallagher's request - a fake "good-guy letter" showing that Gallagher's son, Timothy, was cooperating as a police informant, when in reality, he had refused to do so.

Sources told Newsday yesterday that Timothy Gallagher, 26, recently testified before a special grand jury that he was unaware of his father's efforts to save him from a probable jail term. Timothy Gallagher, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge and was sentenced to 3 years' probation and a fine in February, 1986, could not be reached yesterday.

John Gallagher, 59, said nothing yesterday as he stood before State Supreme Court Justice George F.X. McInerney in Hauppauge. The former chief, who retired in May, 1986, after 34 years in law enforcement, surrendered yesterday morning to Suffolk district attorney's detectives - detectives who were once in his command.

The indictment capped a 20-monthlong local, state and federal investigation into the case.

Gallagher, who began his law-enforcement career in 1952 as a state trooper, had been charged last week in a secret indictment that was unsealed yesterday morn-ing. The indictment against him listed felony charges of offering a false instrument for filing, tampering with physical evidence, and misdemeanor charges of conspiracy and official misconduct.

He and Sinram, who now works for the department's communications bureau, declined to comment after their arraignment. They were both released on their own recognizance. They pleaded not guilty.

Stephen Scaring, the special prosecutor who has been handling the investigation, said Gallagher has essentially two alternatives to trial: He can refuse to cooperate with a special grand jury investigation, plead guilty to the top charges and face up to 4 years in a state prison. Or he can agree to cooperate and pro-vide Scaring with the names of any other police officials who may have known about the Gallagher affair and conspired to keep it secret.

"We may be wrong," said Scaring, "but we think that Gallagher might have important information. If he wants to cooperate, he's going to have to be forth-coming in that regard."

Scaring also said that no one from the Suffolk District Attorney's Office has been implicated by any of the witnesses who testified before the special grand jury. Initially, Scaring had been trying to determine whether any members of the district attorney's narcotics bureau had helped Gallagher. "We have found no evidence to indicate that," Scaring said yesterday.

With yesterday's indictment, Gallagher, who was chief of the department's 280 detectives from January, 1984, until May, 1986, became the highest-ranking Suffolk police official ever to be formally accused of criminal wrongdoing.

The two indictments yesterday followed a related plea bargain in October by former narcotics squad Sgt. Joseph Comiskey. He pleaded guilty under a waiver plea, to filing a false instrument - the phony "good-guy letter" - at Chief Gallagher's request, and agreed to cooperate in the investigation against his for-mer boss.

Suffolk Police Commissioner James Caples, who has known Gallagher for more than 30 years, defended the integrity of his friend.

"I feel terrible about it," Caples said. "I'm not going to say anything bad against him."

Thomas Spota, who represented Gallagher for the arraignment, had no comment.

The Gallagher case dates back to the night of Nov. 2, 1984, when James Kuhn, a veteran narcotics officer, bought 2.9 grams of cocaine from two men in Bay Shore. Through a license plate check a few hours later, Kuhn learned that one of the men was the son of the chief of detectives. The next morning, Kuhn's superior, a lieutenant, telephoned John Gallagher and told him of the buy, Kuhn has said in interviews with Newsday.

Kuhn said that the lieutenant told him, "Don't do anything more . . . We'll take care of it."

Kuhn, who has admitted a cocaine abuse problem of his own, was later transferred to another department, then suspended from the police department. He was found guilty of 48 departmental charges stemming from his cocaine problem, and is awaiting a decision on whether he will be terminated from the department.

Sources have told Newsday that two months after the buy, in January, 1985, John Gallagher met with Assistant District Attorney Raymond Perini, who oversees most Suffolk narcotics prosecutions. Gallagher asked what penalties his son might face. Perini told him that his son could be sentenced to at least 90 days in jail and probation unless he became a police informant. What happened next is under investigation. According to Scaring, on April 3, 1985, Comiskey had Sinram type out the "good guy letter," which credited Timothy Gallagher with acting as a confidential police informant. The letter said that Timothy Gallagher provided an introduction to drug dealers living in a home in Smithtown. The home had been the scene of a drug bust that month, but the information that led to the bust was in reality developed by another confidential informant, Scaring said yesterday.

However, in earlier interviews, John Gallagher said that he had not done anything wrong. "I didn't ask for any favors," John Gallagher has said. "I only asked that [Timothy] be given an opportunity that anybody on the street would get." 

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