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Suffolk District Attorney Spota charged with covering up for county police chief’s assault, obstruction of justice

Thomas Spota, Suffolk County District Attorney, has been accused by federal prosecutors of obstructing justice. File photo

Federal prosecutors have charged Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota with obstruction of justice and witness tampering, arguing that he attempted to cover up a 2012 assault by former county police chief James Burke.

Spota’s chief of investigations Chirstopher McPartland has also been charged in the indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury Wednesday afternoon.

Spota and McPartland are accused of using threats and intimidation to pressure witnesses to provide false information to federal agents during their investigation of Burke. Last year, Burke pleaded guilty to the brutal assault of a man who burglarized the police chief’s car, beating the victim while he was shackled to a piece of furniture in the interrogation room until he confessed.

Today, federal prosecutors have charged Spota and McPartland with attempting to cover up for the former police chief, meeting with Burke numerous times to discuss how they could conceal Burke’s role in the assault during the federal investigation.

“While FBI agents were working to restore justice in a civil rights investigation, District Attorney Thomas Spota and Assistant District Attorney Christopher McPartland were conspiring to obstruct it,” said William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York Filed Office, in a press release issued this afternoon.

Spota and McPartland used their positions of power within the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office to obstruct the federal investigation, pressuring multiple witnesses and co-conspirators to withhold relevant information and provide false information, including false testimony under oath, according to the indictment.

Any attempts to thwart the investigation were unsuccessful, however. Burke pleaded guilty to deprivation of civil rights and conspiracy to obstruct justice in February 2016, and he is currently serving out a 46-month prison sentence.

Both officials are being charged 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.

They were arraigned at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip today at 3 p.m.

Spota, 76, has been district attorney of Suffolk County since 2002. He announced in May that he would not run for reelection.

Katie Blasl
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a reporter, editor and web developer for the LOCAL news websites. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie