CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The former police chief of Suffolk County has found himself on the other side of the law.
James Burke, 51, surrendered to federal authorities at his home in St. James on Wednesday morning and was later seen being led into FBI headquarters in Melville in handcuffs.
He faces a two-count indictment for allegedly beating a prisoner in December 2012, violating his civil rights and then lying and asking others to lie on his behalf to cover it up, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
“No one is above the law,” said Robert Capers, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District Of New York.
“When caught at a crossroads between right and wrong, Burke took a shortcut on the path to justice,” said Diego Rodriguez of the FBI’s New York field office.
Christopher Loeb, 29, claims Burke beat him after he was arrested for stealing a duffel bag containing a gun belt and ammunition from Burke’s unmarked police SUV, which was parked in front of the chief’s house. Loeb pleaded guilty to stealing the bag in 2014 and is serving three years in prison.
A dozen Suffolk cops were summoned to Loeb’s Smithtown home, where items were recovered from cars Loeb had broken into — including Burkes duffel bag, containing a gun belt, ammunition and other personal items, according to court documents, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
Loeb has insisted the bag also contained pornography and other disturbing items. He and his attorney claim that was the motive for Burke ganging up with other Suffolk County officers and beating Loeb at the police precinct station house following the arrest, Burrell reported.
“The defendant, Burke, entered the interrogation room and is alleged to have repeatedly slapped and punched Loeb about the face,” Capers said. “Burke repeatedly met with members of the Suffolk County Police Department who had witnessed Burke’s assault of Loeb to agree on ways to get their stories straight.”
One detective, the U.S. attorney said, even lied under oath, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.
Several officers involved in the incident are reportedly now cooperating with investigators, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported.
Burke’s attorney, Joseph Conway, vehemently denies the charges against his client. As for Loeb’s allegations, “they’re a fabrication of a two-time felon, admitted heroin dealer,” Conway told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
Loeb’s attorney, Amy Marion, issued a statement saying, “We are gratified that this long overdue prosecution has begun and we look forward to seeing that justice is done. We will continue to cooperate with the federal prosecution as needed.”
“This indictment is not only about Chris Loeb. it is about covering up an investigation and lying about what happened,” Marion said.
Prosectuors told a judge Burke poses a danger to the community. He is being held in protective custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn until his bail hearing Friday morning
If convicted, he faces up to 5 1/2 years in federal prison.
Burke had been on the force for 30 years before he suddenly retired in October amid the federal probe, citing family reasons.