Convicted Police Chief Released From Solitary: Sources

James Burke, the disgraced Suffolk County police chief sentenced to prison after being convicted of orchestrating a department cover-up, was released from solitary confinement, where he was placed about two weeks ago after Oxycodone pills were found in his prison cell, sources tell News 4. 

Burke was in solitary confinement for the past 16 days, the sources said. During that time he was only allowed to leave his cell one hour a day. 

Burke is serving a 46-month sentence after he was convicted last year in the beating of a handcuffed man who stole embarrassing items from the chief's SUV. 

After the pills were discovered by guards in early May, Burke was sent to the special housing unit for 30 to 60 days as an investigation was conducted. The SHU is an isolation unit without phone or computer privileges, according to sources.

Burke ultimately wasn't found guilty of anything, according to sources, who said there may not have been enough evidence to prove the pills were his. 

He claimed that the painkillers were planted in his locker after he had a dispute with another inmate.

Burke has since been placed back in the general population at Allenwood, but in a different bunk, according to the sources. He also has new roommates. 

Burke was convicted in February 2016 of orchestrating a department cover-up after beating a handcuffed man for stealing embarrassing items from his SUV. He pummeled the heroin addict who had taken his gun belt, ammunition, a box of cigars and a bag containing sex toys and pornography, prosecutors said.

Burke was sentenced in the fall to nearly four years in prison.

Burke became chief of the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the country's largest suburban police forces, in 2012 after serving for nearly a decade as chief investigator for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Prosecutors called Burke's time as chief a "reign of terror."

They said he kept liquor in his office and regularly drove drunk. He had subordinates conduct surveillance on his girlfriends, prosecutors said. In 2013, he had a contractor illegally put a GPS device on a high-ranking civilian police official he disliked, hoping to gather blackmail information, prosecutors said.

Questions of Burke's fitness to lead surfaced as far back as 1995, when he twice was found to have failed to safeguard his weapon. Internal Affairs reports also found Burke had engaged in sexual acts in police vehicles and had a sexual relationship with a convicted felon.

In the 2012 incident that led to his downfall, witnesses testified he "went out of control" after the handcuffed suspect called him a "pervert" during an interrogation - punching, screaming and cursing and threatening to kill him with a heroin overdose.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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