A judge has recused himself from the case of three former Nassau County police officials accused of covering up a school burglary committed by the son of a donor to a police nonprofit.
Judge John Kase read a statement Thursday in his Mineola courtroom saying that he asked the case to be reassigned to another judge because of his ties to former Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, who led the department at the time of the alleged cover-up but has not been implicated.
“I have been a friend of former Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey for the past five years and have been in his company at professional as well as social events,” Kase said. “The mere appearance of impropriety is as strong as a reason for recusal as impropriety itself.”
Kase made the statement during a court conference in the case against former Second Deputy Commissioner William Flanagan, former Deputy Chief Inspector John Hunter and Alan Sharpe, a former detective sergeant. All three retired before pleading not guilty in March to official misconduct and conspiracy.
The case has been randomly reassigned by the court clerk to Nassau County Judge George Peck, according to Kase. The recusal comes as defense attorneys for the three ex-cops had filed a motion to dismiss the case.
“We had no idea that he was going to move to recuse himself, he just did it…I did not expect that today,” said Bruce Barket, Flanagan’s Garden City-based attorney.
Prosecutors have alleged that the trio colluded to squash the investigation into 20-year-old Zachary Parker of Merrick, who later admitted to breaking into John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore and stealing electronics in 2009.
After making an appearance in Judge Peck’s courtroom, Barket said the case against the three former cops should be thrown out. He cited emails that the defense team discovered from the school district stating Parker should not be arrested.
“There was discussions with the school district and the lawyer for Parker about how to resolve this short of criminal prosecution,” he said.
“Anyone who looks at this indictment,” Barket added, “particularly in light of the fact that we now know the school district directed the police to not to file criminal charges, not to arrest [Parker], this case should be dismissed.”
As previously reported, the NCPD case file, which the Press was granted access to by an officer involved in the investigation, includes a statement from the school’s principal declaring that the person responsible for the larceny should be prosecuted.
Parker’s father, Gary, who donated to the Nassau Police Foundation that is fund raising to build a new police academy, asked the trio not to charge his son, according to the indictment. Gary Parker, who allegedly gave gifts to the ex-cops in exchange, was not charged.
Flanagan said he remains confident that he will be exonerated.
“I’ve got a long history here of service to the county,” he said. “People at different levels—across a wide spectrum—make inquiries all the time of the entire judicial process. I did nothing here. I’m confident that ultimately that will come to for and people will understand that.”
A grand jury indicted Flanagan, Hunter and Sharpe following a Long Island Press investigation exposing preferential treatment to police foundation donors.