Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Oxycodone Found in Convicted Ex-Suffolk Police Chief’s Prison Cell: Sources

The disgraced Long Island police chief sentenced to prison last year in the beating of a handcuffed man who stole embarrassing items from the chief's SUV was found with Oxycodone pills in his prison cell, sources tell News 4. 

Officials at the low-security federal prison where former Suffolk County police chief James Burke is serving a 46-month sentence discovered Oxycodone in his locker, sources say.

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

As punishment, Burke will be sent to the special housing unit for 30 to 60 days. The SHU is an isolation unit where he won't be able to have phone or computer privileges, the sources say. 

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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