CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A judge has denied bail for former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke who has been indicted on federal civil rights charges.
The 51-year-old is accused of beating a man who stole a bag from his vehicle and then forcing other officers to cover it up.
“Quite frankly, I find the corruption of an entire department by this defendant is shocking,” U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler said. He ruled Burke was a danger to the community and said there were no acceptable conditions that would allow him to be released.
The theft suspect, 29-year-old Christopher Loeb, was arrested after someone broke into the chief’s SUV in December 2012 and made off with a gun belt, handcuffs, magazines of ammunition, a box of cigars, humidor and a canvas bag that contained, among other items, sex toys and video pornography, authorities said.
Loeb 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.
During the nearly one-hour bail hearing, prosecutors also said at least 11 current or former police officers and detectives testified before the grand jury that indicted Burke.
Prosecutors said in a letter to the judge that Burke also threatened to kill the suspect with a heroin overdose and “went out of control” — punching, screaming and cursing — after the suspect called him a “pervert.”
Prosecutors also said Burke abused his authority by entering Loeb’s residence as police searched for evidence, retrieving his canvas bag and other articles and jeopardizing a larceny investigation that victimized many other civilians “solely to retrieve embarrassing articles.”
Loeb later pleaded guilty to a weapons charge and was sentenced to three years in prison; he was released last summer.
Burke had been on the force for 30 years before he suddenly retired in October amid the federal probe, citing family reasons.
Burke’s attorney, Joseph Conway, argued that because the chief retired he no longer wielded the power of the top uniformed officer in the police department, and therefore was not a threat.
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 this week.
Loeb’s attorney, Amy Marion, said, “This indictment is not only about Chris Loeb. it is about covering up an investigation and lying about what happened.”
Burke was arrested Wednesday and pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces up to 5 1/2 years in federal prison.
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