SUFFOLK COUNTY, L.I. (PIX11) – Some people close to the case of a police chief accused of beating up a man in police custody are still trying to make sense of the latest surprising turn in a situation full of remarkable developments. This time, the shocker is that the lawyer representing the man in custody has suddenly chosen to bow out of the case.
She cited a conflict of interest last Friday for her stepping down. No further details were available from the attorney who once made headlines in her own right in a controversial legal matter.
Toni Marie Angeli, the Garden City- and Harlem based attorney, withdrew Friday from the case that centers around the arrest of her client, Chris Loeb, 26, of Smithtown, Long Island.
He was under arrest in his home in the early morning hours of December 14th when Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke arrived and confronted Loeb, according to police reports.
Loeb was accused of stealing items out of more than a dozen cars, including an unmarked, police-issued SUV used by the police chief. The grand larceny suspect allegedly lifted a duffel bag from the chief’s vehicle.
According to Loeb, Chief Burke beat him up in the home where Loeb lives with his brother and parents. Then, later that morning, according to Loeb, the chief beat him further after he was transported to a local police precinct.
Loeb has had qualified, court-appointed representation throughout the six-and-a-half months of his case, but now, a week after federal officials moved Loeb out of the Suffolk County Jail and into a federal facility for his own safety, and after the FBI has opened up an investigation into Loeb’s allegations, his attorney is moving away from his case.
“It pretty much surprised all of us,” Frank Loeb, Chris’s brother, told PIX11 News through the screen door of his home. “I don’t know if it was a moral issue or the complexity [of the case].”
One thing is well known about Chris Loeb’s lawyer, though. Toni Marie Angeli is no stranger to notoriety. Dozens of articles have chronicled an incident she was involved in in 1996, where she was accused of creating child pornography. The accusation was quickly dropped upon investigation, but she was arrested anyway on disorderly conduct and property damage charges after she damaged a lamp and had a tussle with investigators.
They had responded to a complaint filed by a photo development shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts to which Angeli had brought negatives of images of her nude four year-old son posing with his father, who was clothed. A worker at the shop who had developed the images determined that they were pornographic because the child was naked.
Angeli had taken the pictures for a photography class at Harvard, where she was studying at the time. Massachusetts prosecutors offered her a plea deal that would have allowed her to do community service after she was convicted, but Angeli chose to spend 30 days in jail instead, contending to the end that she had done nothing wrong.
Her photographs were ultimately displayed at a Harvard exhibition.
There is no clear indication of any connection between the nude photo incident and Angeli’s conflict of interest in representing Chris Loeb. In fact, Loeb’s family has told PIX11 News that Angeli’s resolve in the photo incident may demonstrate a determination on her part that their son and brother receive justice.
For now, the court is seeking somebody else to provide that justice. Angeli has agreed to stay on the case until a replacement is found for her. One lawyer, Michael J. Brown, had agreed last Friday to take over the case, but backed out after less than an hour.