CENTRAL ISLIP, Long Island — Over five decades, he's gained a reputation for fighting crime and corruption, but now, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has been indicted on charges of crime and corruption of his own.
The charges stem from a related criminal case on which PIX11 was the first broadcast news outlet to report, nearly five years ago. Spota is charged with conspiracy and obstruction in the federal investigation into long-time Spota protege, and former Suffolk County police chief, James Burke.
Burke pled guilty last year to accusations that he'd tortured a prisoner in his custody. It happened after the prisoner, Christopher Loeb, 30, stole Burke's duffel bag from the chief's SUV in December of 2012.
Inside the chief's bag had been a gun belt, handcuffs, sex toys, and pornography. Loeb found it, and was beaten up for the discovery.
"The Suffolk County law enforcement regime," said Loeb's attorney, Bruce Barket, in an interview with PIX11 News, "this kind of corrupt, incestuous place that had been engaged in misconduct for decades, has been brought down by one kid, who said, 'I'm not taking a beating from a cop.'"
For his part, Spota's own lawyer spoke for him outside of federal court on Wednesday afternoon.
"Tom Spota committed no crime," said attorney Alan Vinegrad, minutes after Spota had posted $500,000 bail. "He looks forward to vindicating himself in court," Vinegrad said.
Federal prosecutors accused Spota of abusing his office to help Burke cover up the torture of Loeb and to intimidate officers who'd witnessed the crime. Spota is also accused of trying to keep federal investigators from probing into Chief Burke's abuse of Loeb.
At least 11 officers of the Suffolk County Police Department have made sealed plea agreements with federal prosecutors in the Burke and Spota cases, according to PIX11 sources. Those officers' testimony helped lead to Burke's conviction and Spota's indictment, sources say.
Indicted with District Attorney Spota is his close aide and head of the D.A.'s political corruption unit, Christopher McPartland.
The indictments come nine weeks before Spota, 76, had planned to retire from his position as district attorney.
His next scheduled court appearance is December 1.
In the meantime, both he and McPartland remain in their jobs. However, both candidates running to replace Spota, Timothy Sini, the Suffolk County police commissioner, and Ray Perini, a former assistant D.A., have called on Spota to resign.
County Executive Steve Bellone has also called for Spota's resignation.