HomeSuffolk DA office argues for release of Steve Levy’s secret agreement

Suffolk DA office argues for release of Steve Levy’s secret agreement

An attorney for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office argued Friday for the release of former county executive Steve Levy’s 2011 non-prosecution agreement to Newsday in a lengthy appeal memorandum that noted Levy himself “did not treat the document as confidential.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Dennis Cohen, in his 497-page appeal section summary on behalf of DA Tim Sini, rejected Levy’s recent argument that the agreement’s title page, which he called “under seal, privilege and confidential,” is the main reason it should be secret. Note that the document itself does not contain such protection.

Cohen noted that “Levy did not treat the document as classified, claiming its description and investigation” in an interview with Newsday in 2020. “Had there been any obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the agreement, Levy would have violated it by publicly discussing it with the entity now seeking for its actual terms under FOIL.”

Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Paul Beasley, in a ruling this summer that called for the document to be released to Newsday, correctly noted that the designation or title of an agreement does not make the agreement secret in the absence of language within the text of the agreement. Cohen wrote that the agreement expresses a clear intent to “prevent” disclosure.

More fundamentally, Cohen wrote, “the public has a right to know why” Levy lost his $4 million campaign fund and agreed not to run for re-election. “There has been much public reporting and speculation, to which Levy himself contributed,” Cohen wrote, and there is “public interest in the actions of the former attorney general.” [Thomas Spota], who was convicted and sentenced to a long prison term for covering up the crimes of the former police chief.”

Levy’s case stems from Newsday’s February Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the agreement, which Levy reached with Spota in 2011 that required him to give up his $4 million campaign fund, and end his political career. In May, Levy sued Sean’s office as he was preparing for his release. Following Beasley’s decision, Levy appealed the ruling in September to the state’s Department of Appeals.

In a statement Friday, David Besso, Levy’s attorney, wrote, in apparent reference to Newsday’s second Freedom of Information Act request seeking all investigative materials in the case, “Our appeal is against the FOIL’s request seeking the release of all material—not just a document from Two pages – collected from an operation espionage in a coup attempt against the executive branch of the province.”

“No reasonable person would be fine to expose every word and every move that you and your family made about a malicious spying project,” Besso added.

Cohen noted that Levy previously described the allegations against him in the agreement as “more in line with the use of county computers and phones for campaign purposes, rather than as a “death penalty item” or “outrageous thing”,” and that it “doesn’t make sense” for Sini’s office to release the document. “So that the public can determine whether [Levy]They were accurate descriptions.”

And while Levy might “now wish he had included a confidentiality clause in the agreement,” Cohen said, “in clear terms, you can’t compromise on how the FOIL is disclosed.”

In addition to the lack of confidentiality clauses, the agreement also does not contain anything that “could jeopardize [Levy]”His integrity is not a source providing classified information that needs to be protected,” Cohen wrote.

The DA Brief also challenged Levy’s claim that the agreement was distinct because recognition agreements in various jurisdictions are not subject to disclosure.

“The federal courts have decided otherwise,” Cohen’s office said, finding that plea agreements, “in the absence of compelling circumstances, should be available to the public and the press.”

Cohen wrote that Levy provided no evidence to support his claim that the agreement should remain secret “a full decade after its completion without ever having been sealed. There were no public safety concerns or other compelling interests that would have justified confidentiality at the time the agreement was concluded. Certainly, there is no longer any agreement now.”

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