This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy and Michael O's Keeffe, It was written by Murphy,
A former police lieutenant said in the obstruction of former Suffolk district attorney Thomas Spota Monday that he feared for his life in the fall of 2015 when he met then-police chief James Burke in a restaurant parking lot alone after receiving a federal summons.
"I was very worried that he was trying to kill me," James Hickey said of Burke – the figure in the middle of a prisoner scandal claiming that prosecutors Spota and others were trying to hide.
Hickey, a key prosecutor, has testified that he played a crucial role in protecting Burke from exposure. He took his second stance when the fourth week of the trial of Spota and Christopher McPartland began on Monday in the US District Court in Central Islip.
The witness told a prosecutor that Burke was "scared, excited, nervous" and "very nervous" when they met in front of a Ground Round restaurant in the fall of 2015 after Hickey received the summons. Evidence showed that the federal officials had resumed an investigation of the prisoner attack at this time.
55-year-old Hickey is the first to directly link Spota with allegations that Spota and McPartland, who led Spota's anti-corruption department, have joined Burke's beating on handcuffed prisoner Christopher Loeb to hide in December 2012.
Burke was Spota's former investigator and his protégé.
But McPartland's lawyer also had the opportunity on Monday to highlight Hickey's credibility with a series of questions that focused on his history of alcoholism and his mental health problems.
The witness agreed during part of his cross-examination that the prosecutor's office asked for medical records just before the trial, documenting hospitalizations in 2013 and 2015.
Hickey also insisted that he did not agree to accuse McPartland of avoiding charges.
When questioned by the prosecutor, he also said that he and Burke had met in the Ground Round after deciding to talk privately after Burke turned up at the police union office where Hickey was looking for a lawyer.
Burke, according to Hickey, fell on his hands and knees and searched the parking lot for GPS tracking devices for their cars. The prosecutor's witness said the cover-up efforts were falling apart at that time and Burke knew it.
Burke informed him that County Executive Steve Bellone knew Burke had attacked Loeb and told him he needed to resign, the witness said.
Hickey recalled that Burke also said in the parking lot that one of Hickey's grand jury detectives had already told the truth.
Burke also confided that he did not mind "playing cards with gangsters for three years," but he needed Hickey "to be strong," the witness recalled.
Hickey testified last week that Burke meant one thing: "not working against Spota and McPartland."
But on Monday, Hickey told the jury he was ready to work with the prosecutors after this meeting with Burke.
This was followed by three years of anxiety and stress as he tried to ensure that a trio of detectives working for him in the Criminal Investigation Department who also participated in Loeb's attack remained silent, according to the witness.
At this point, Hickey said, "he just wanted to tell the truth."
Burke, who was the investigator prior to his appointment as Spota's boss, beat Loeb hours after stealing a bag from the Burke police vehicle on 12 December 2014 in a police station.
Burke pleaded guilty in early 2016 and spent most of his 46-month prison term before being released last year.
Mount Sinai's 78-year-old Spota and Northport's 54-year-old McPartland claim they could not try to hide Burke's actions because Burke never admitted his guilt.
She did not plead guilty to conspiracy, obstruction of justice, witness manipulation and as an accessory to the loss of Loeb's civil rights.
Hickey also said during interrogation of prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz on Monday that he has met with government officials 24 times since becoming an employee and hoping "absolutely" for leniency if convicted.
The former lieutenant handed in his bonds in December 2015 after three decades on the police and pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct the judiciary on January 15, 2016, according to his testimony.
The witness said he made notes to prosecutors during the alleged cover-up and calendar entries in which he made relevant meetings.
Treinis Gatz used Hickey's calendar entries, notes and telephone records to consolidate his testimony.
Hickey told the jury last week that Spota, at a meeting in June 2015 attended by Burke and McPartland, asked who had "reversed" and revealed the cover-up after federal officials resumed their investigation into Loeb ,
On Monday, Hickey stated that his calendar had a meeting with "TS and CM" Spota and McPartland at the county attorney's at 11:30 am that day.
Last week, Hickey cited some of those involved in the cover-up as the five members of a self-described group known as the Inner Circle, made up of Spota, Burke, McPartland and the then head of Detective William Madigan.
He also testified earlier that he had participated in the cover-up attempt because he feared to cross members of the Inner Circle who would destroy enemies financially, personally and professionally.
During the prosecution questionnaire, Hickey remembered the constant pressure to make sure his detectives did not say anything. He also testified about hospitalization for pancreatitis caused by excessive drinking in the summer of 2013 and about hospitalization in October 2015.
A doctor who treated Hickey, Hickey said in 2015, is experiencing hallucinations caused by stress and sleep deprivation.
Hickey admitted Monday had lied to his wife about four extramarital affairs.
During the interrogation of Treinis Gatz, he also announced that he pleaded guilty to an internal indictment and lost several days' leave after a judge found out in 1992 that his testimony was untrustworthy in a burglary case and dismissed an indictment.
Later, McPartland's attorney, Larry Krantz, had Hickey agree after his cross-examination began that he initially told prosecutors nothing about suffering from hallucinations, delusions and paranoia in 2015, but said he had suffered from a lack of sleep and mini-stroke Stress.
The witness said before confessing that he had told government officials about the delirium and altered mental state that he experienced in October 2015.
But Hickey also insisted that he confirm to federal officials in his first conversation with the government that he had been taken to a mental health department for an emergency.
"We talked about it before we sat down at the table," the witness said as the cross-examination began to heat up.
However, Hickey also said that the prosecutor's office did not ask for his medical records until October or November, shortly before the trial.
McPartland's lawyer also got Hickey to agree that the only physical evidence of some of the conversation between him and McPartland, Spota, and Burke is notes in his calendar that do not include the content of the conversation.
"We only have your word, right?" Krantz asked.
"That's right," Hickey answered.
At another point, the witness angrily denied that he had agreed to charge McPartland so as not to be charged with a crime.
Hickey also denied his wife's claim that he had been suffering from memory problems since being hospitalized in 2013.
The witness said his wife, a nurse, could not remember where she had put her cell phone.
Hickey admitted that he drank a bottle of wine and half a bottle of vodka every day in 2013, but said he had "built such tolerance" that it never interfered with his performance at work the next day.
The Government member agreed that he had never told anyone that he was at risk for service because of his drinking.
"I never thought I would have a problem until I had a problem, that was the problem," Hickey said.
His cross-examination will continue on Tuesday.