Suffolk County DA Spota rejects calls to resign

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A veteran Long Island prosecutor who was a longtime supporter of a now-convicted former police chief is refusing calls by a top elected official to resign.

In an extraordinary news conference held outside District Attorney Thomas Spota's office, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Spota's office was the center of a "culture of corruption" and urged his fellow Democrat to resign.

Bellone alleged that Spota's office has failed to prosecute possible criminal activity uncovered in wiretaps and had blocked federal law enforcement from assisting with the investigation into the unsolved murders of 10 people, whose remains have been dumped over the years near a highway leading to Jones Beach.

Bellone said if Spota refuses to step down, he will ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove the district attorney from office. Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi declined to comment.

The governor has the authority under the state Constitution to remove a public official such as a district attorney, but such actions can only be taken after a hearing.

Spota, who has been district attorney since 2002, vehemently denied any wrongdoing at a press conference following Bellone's allegations. He said Bellone's actions were fueled by a "vendetta" because Spota has prosecuted allies of the county executive.

"I have absolutely no reason why I should resign or be removed from office," Spota told reporters.

The prosecutor also has been under fire for recommending that Bellone appoint James Burke as the county police chief. Burke had worked 10 years as an investigator in Spota's office before being appointed police chief in 2012. Burke pleaded guilty this year to assaulting a man who had stolen items from the police chief's vehicle.

Burke admitted in federal court to threatening to kill the man after he stole a bag of embarrassing personal items, including sex toys. He is awaiting sentencing.

Burke had been disciplined in 1995 after being found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer for twice failing to safeguard his weapon, engaging in sexual acts in police vehicles and having a sexual relationship with "a convicted felon known to be actively engaged in criminal conduct including the possession and sale of illegal drugs, prostitution and larceny."

Spota, who has known Burke since he testified as a teenager in a 1980s case involving the murder of a young boy by a group of neighborhood kids, said he had no inkling the chief would later assault a suspect.


Associated Press Writer David Klepper in Albany contributed to this story.