Thomas Spota, Suffolk County District Attorney, is stepping down after federal prosecutors charged him yesterday with obstruction of justice and witness tampering during the federal investigation of an assault by the former county policy chief.
Both Spota and his chief of investigations, Christopher McPartland, were charged in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury Wednesday. Federal prosecutors accused both officials of using threats and intimidation to pressure witnesses to provide false information to federal agents during their investigation of James Burke, the former county police chief who pleaded guilty to brutally beating a man who burglarized the chief’s car in 2012.
“I will be leaving my post as district attorney at the earliest opportunity after the resolution of normal administrative matters relating to my retirement,” Spota said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
Spota said he would notify New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo of his decision today.
The county’s chief assistant district attorney, Emily Constant, will assume Spota’s duties and responsibilities until Cuomo appoints a new district attorney.
Spota and McPartland allegedly used their positions of power within the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office to attempt to obstruct the federal investigation into Burke’s assault, pressuring multiple witnesses and co-conspirators to withhold relevant information and provide false information, including false testimony under oath, according to the indictment.
They are also accused of meeting with Burke and other police department officials “numerous times” after the assault to discuss how they could conceal Burke’s role in the incident during the federal investigation.
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.
Spota, 76, has been district attorney of Suffolk County since 2002. He announced in May that he would not run for reelection.