A former high-ranking Long Island police official accepted hundreds of dollars in gift cards as thanks for pulling strings for the son of a wealthy benefactor suspected of stealing electronics from his high school, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
"He's compromised the institution of the Nassau County Police Department," Assistant District Attorney Christiana McSloy told jurors during opening statements in the trial of William Flanagan. The former deputy commissioner, who retired last year, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and other charges. If convicted, the 55-year-old Flanagan could be sentenced to up to four years in prison.
He and two other former police officials were indicted last year on charges they assisted a friend who was trying to quash a police investigation into allegations the friend's teenage son had stolen $10,000 of electronics equipment from his Long Island high school. The other two former police officials will be tried separately.
Prosecutors contend Flanagan and the other two took extraordinary steps to see that some of the electronics was returned to John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore. They say the effort was made on behalf of Gary Parker, a partner in a Manhattan accounting firm and former member of the Nassau County Police Department Foundation. Parker's son, Gary, was suspected of stealing the equipment from the school; he pleaded guilty last year after the district attorney's office took over the investigation from police and was sentenced to up to three years in prison.
But in 2009, prosecutors say the elder Parker had telephone and email discussions with Flanagan and the other police brass over several months negotiating the return of the stolen property in exchange for no charges being filed.
The prosecutor said Tuesday that a day after Flanagan arranged for the return of the electronics equipment to the school, the deputy commissioner received a thank-you card from the Parkers that included several hundred dollars of gift cards to a steakhouse. McSloy said Flanagan then responded in an email that acknowledged receipt of the thank-you gift.
The elder Parker has not been charged with any crime. His attorney said last year when the charges were filed against Flanagan and the others that it's not unusual for private citizens to "work something out" with police to avoid charges. "It was worked out among the parties," lawyer Robert Schalk said. "The Parkers did nothing to influence the outcome."
Flanagan's attorney, Bruce Barket, also insisted in his opening statement to the jury that his client did nothing wrong in arranging to have the equipment returned. He described the accusations against Flanagan as a "bald-faced lie."