Former NY police chief James Burke was arrested by federal agents at his home. Burke is accused of assaulting a prisoner and then conspiring to cover up the alleged attack by pressuring the officers working under him. The prisoner claims the law enforcement officers punched and kicked him during the arrest.
James Burke was an NYPD police chief in Suffolk County. He resigned from his post in October. His decision to step down was related to a renewed investigation into the 2012 alleged prisoner beating, according to Steve Bellone, the county executive who appointed 51-year-old Burke as police chief, MSN reports.
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) December 9, 2015
Burke has been charged with depriving the prisoner of his civil rights and with conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice. If convicted, the former law enforcement official could face up to five years in prison. James Burke currently lives in Long Island and is slated to appear in court later this afternoon. Future arrests linked to the alleged assault and cover-up conspiracy by the former NY police chief are possible, according to U.S. Attorney Robert Capers.
Via his attorney, Joseph Conway, Burke has maintained his innocence. Conway states that the civil rights and conspiracy charges will not stand up in court.
“We contest these things even happened… We don’t believe the government will be able to show Mr. Burke is a danger on an ongoing basis. This obviously is a tarnishment to his career and he will vigorously defend himself,” Conway said.
The prosecutor has asked the judge not to issue bail to the former NY police chief because the former public employee is a “danger to the community.” The federal investigators claim that Burke has threatened to kill his accuser by injecting him with a fatal dose of heroin.
The investigation into the alleged beating has reportedly been ongoing since the claims were made by then-prisoner Christopher Loeb. In 2013, FBI agents began investigating allegations that James Burke “abused” a prisoner who was blamed for stealing handcuffs, a gun belt, and ammunition from the vehicle issued to the chief by the police department.
Loeb ultimately pleaded guilty to a weapons charge after the arrest. He later filed a civil rights lawsuit against both the Suffolk County Police Department and Chief Burke. In the court filing, Christopher Loeb claimed that he was beaten while inside his home by Burke and several of his officers.
— Newsday (@Newsday) December 9, 2015
“Defendant Burke repeatedly met with members of the Suffolk County Police Department who had witnessed Burke’s assault on Loeb to agree on ways to get their story straight,” U.S. Attorney Capers said, according to a report by Long Island News 12.
The Suffolk County Police Department is one of the 15 largest law enforcement departments in the entire country. Before being appointed to police chief, Burke was employed as an investigator at the county district attorney’s office. The decision to vacate his position was followed by the retirements of a handful of other high-ranking Suffolk County police officials in recent weeks. Police commissioner Edward Webber was among those who decided it was time to take off his badge.
Amy Marion, Christopher Loeb’s attorney, stated in a press released that her client is working with federal investigators on the case and will continue to do so as they prepare for trial. Marion also said that Loeb is “gratified” that the James Burke prosecution has finally begun and is hopeful that justice will prevail in the case.
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