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Former Suffolk DA James Spota Sentenced To 5 Years In James Burke Cover-Up

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota was sentenced Tuesday for a cover-up involving the county's former police chief.

The once-esteemed Suffolk District Attorney, who sent criminals to prison, will be heading to prison himself in a stunning role reversal.

"The verdict and today's sentences demonstrate that no one is above the law, and those who abuse their oath of office and the enormous power vested in them by the public will suffer severe consequences," said Nicole Boekmann, chief assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Justice was served, say federal prosecutors, in the judge's five-year sentence for Spota and chief investigator Chris McPartland for "unconscionable conduct" of a "years' long criminal cover-up" of an assault on a shackled prisoner.

"The damage and the cost of this corruption and abuse of power is incalculable," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Spota's tragic flaw was his loyalty to his longtime protégé, former Suffolk County police chief James Burke.

In 2012, Burke beat burglary suspect Christopher Loeb after Loeb stole Burke's duffel bag, containing embarrassing items such as sex toys and pornography.

"Every time I asked for a lawyer, I got hit again, I got hit again, I got choked, I got choked, I got punched, I got slapped," Loeb said.

Burke went to prison in 2016.

A month before his 80th birthday, amid a pandemic, Spota's attorney argued for no time behind bars, citing the agony he has already suffered from extraordinary public shaming, calling him a "fundamentally good, decent and honorable man."

Spota addressed the court, admitting to a "failure of trust," saying, "I fear that is the way I'll always be remembered" and "I hope not to die in prison alone."

There to witness the dramatic fall from grace Tuesday was Christopher Loeb.

"To see any old man live the rest of his life in a prison cell, possibly die in jail, that sucks, but listen, you got to be held accountable," he said.

Spota's prison term, which is set to begin on Dec. 10, is longer than even Burke, who beat Loeb, served, but Judge Azrack said the sentence needed to be substantial for criminal conduct that betrays the public trust.

Spota was also ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.

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