Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and his former aide Christopher McCartland have asked the judge who sentenced them to 5 years in prison for corruption to allow them to remain at large while the appeal is proceeding.
U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrac executed the sentences last month and ordered Mac Bartland to turn himself in to prison officials by November 10 and Spota to do the same by December 10.
But lawyers for the defendants said in court filings Monday that bail should be granted because the appeal by Spota and McPartland would ask fundamental legal questions that, if decided in favor of the defense, would lead to a cassation or a new trial.
Defense attorneys also said Spota, 80, of Mount Sinai, and Mac Bartland, 55, of Northport, should remain out of prison while they pursue their appeals of their convictions and sentences because they do not pose an escape risk or a danger to the community.
“There is every reason why Mr. Spota’s appeal presents a real and substantial challenge to many aspects of his conviction that he genuinely believes warrants a new trial,” said a suggestion from Spota’s team.
“All he asks for is the opportunity to resolve these challenges, so he will know for sure whether he should serve what will certainly be an extraordinarily harsh and medically dangerous prison sentence,” the file added.
A jury in 2019 convicted Spota and McPartland, who both headed Spota’s anti-corruption unit, of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witnesses tampering, and acting as collaborators in denying civil rights to prisoner Christopher Loeb.
Through their verdict, the jurors found that former prosecutors orchestrated the cover-up of the 2012 Loeb beating in the Suffolk Police District that was carried out by James Burke, then the Suffolk Police Chief, along with three detectives.
The assault occurred hours after Loeb, a heroin addict, stole a duffel bag from the Burke Department car that contained items inside including a gun belt, ammunition, Viagra, sex toys and pornography.
In the pending lawsuit, Spota’s lawyers argued that one of the “mistakes” that “unfairly tipped the scales in favor of the government” during the trial was the prosecution’s “abundant, sensational and irrelevant evidence of Mr. Burke’s misdeeds”. The defense claimed that the evidence called for Sputa to be found guilty “on the basis of guilt by association”.
Spota’s proposal also alleges that the prosecution “repeatedly raised inflammatory testimony from police officers” that they feared Burke and Spota’s retaliation if they cooperated with the federal investigation. The defense memo also described this testimony as “completely irrelevant,” saying it often contained “unsupported and unacceptable speculation.”
According to Spota’s defense team, the prosecution also defamed Emilie Constant, the former assistant attorney general of Spota. Their file said that while Constant gave “strong testimony justifying Mr. Spota’s acquittal”, the prosecution then accused Constant in his closing argument of “complicity” in covering up Loeb’s assault.
McPartland’s lawyers joined the arguments in Spota’s request on behalf of their client, while also saying in a separate memorandum supporting McPartland’s bid to remain free that refusing to release the former anti-corruption chief on bail pending his appeal “would be a gross injustice.”
The court file added that the evidentiary rulings and how they were used by the government created “substantial issues on appeal which, if resolved in the defendants’ favour, are likely to lead to their overturning and a new trial.”
Spota’s lead attorney, Alan Vingrad, was not immediately reached by phone for comment on Tuesday. McPartland’s chief attorney, Larry Krantz, declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the US Eastern District Attorney’s office also declined to comment Tuesday on the defense files. Court records show that the judge gave the plaintiffs until September 20 to respond before she later issued a ruling.