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Attorney seeks special prosecutor in vehicular homicide case

The attorney for the Holbrook man accused of killing a Wading River boy in an alleged drunken driving crash last year has asked for a special prosecutor in the case, alleging “misdeeds” by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and “bias” by the judge in the case.

Steven Politi of Central Islip appeared before Suffolk County Supervising Judge Mark Cohen to be heard on the petition and to request a stay in the trial of Thomas Murphy, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Oct. 8. Judge Cohen denied Mr. Politi’s motion for a stay and said he will issue a decision on the request for a special prosecutor by Friday.

Mr. Politi, in his petition, argued that the DA’s office has maintained what he suggested is an unusually close relationship with the family of Andrew McMorris, the 12-year-old Scout who was struck by Mr. Murphy’s vehicle and killed while on a hike in Manorville the afternoon of Sept. 30, 2018. He pointed to a drunk driving forum hosted by the district attorney’s office at which the McMorris family appeared alongside prosecutors, and public statements made by District Attorney Timothy Sini and fellow prosecutors, as “tainting” the jury pool.

“[This] sends the message to the public that Mr. Murphy was, in fact, driving drunk,” Mr. Politi wrote in his petition. “This is a fact that has not yet been proven in court.”

Mr. Politi, who replaced Mr. Murphy’s previous attorney July 31, said it’s been stated that Mr. Murphy’s blood showed a blood alcohol content of .13% more than three hours after the crash, but prosecutors have failed to disclose that his client also passed two roadside sobriety tests.

Mr. Politi also told Judge Cohen he is preparing to file a petition in appellate court to have Judge Fernando Camacho removed from the case, saying the judge has failed to be impartial and has “cut off [Mr. Murphy’s] ability to be heard on pretrial motions.”

“For whatever reason, Judge Camacho is married to this Oct. 8 [trial] date,” Mr. Politi told Judge Cohen Wednesday, adding that Mr. Murphy hasn’t been given the time to properly defend himself.

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In his petition for a special prosecutor, Mr. Politi alleged that the DA’s office prejudiced Judge Camacho by, among other things, submitting victim impact statements to the judge before trial. In turn, he said the judge prejudiced his client’s right to a fair trial by suggesting in open court that Mr. Murphy had led the judge to believe he would enter a guilty plea in the case, “remarks that appeared on the cover of Newsday, a widely circulated publication and the most read newspaper on Long Island.”

Speaking outside the courtroom Wednesday, Mr. Politi said it’s his understanding that no plea negotiations ever took place.

The district attorney’s office, which was represented Wednesday by appeals bureau chief Glenn Green and chief assistant district attorney William Ferris, has until noon Oct. 3 to file its opposition to Mr. Politi’s request for a special prosecutor. The judge said Mr. Politi must then file his response by 5 p.m., so he can issue a decision Friday, Oct. 4.

Judge Cohen made a request of prosecutors Wednesday, asking them to clarify if any assistant district attorneys who gathered evidence at the scene of the crash will be trying the case. In his motion, Mr. Politi stated that prosecutors Brendan Ahern and Jacob DeLauter, who have represented the DA’s office in prior court appearances, were present at the scene and should be excluded from prosecuting the case, since he believes they are potential witnesses.

Mr. Murphy, 60, who was not present Wednesday, is facing a top charge of aggravated vehicular homicide, which carries a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. He is expected to return to court in Riverhead at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday for a Dunaway hearing, which is used to determine whether evidence has been seized from a defendant as a result of a search conducted without probable cause. Jury selection is expected to begin at 2:15 p.m. that day and continue through the end of the week. Testimony in the case is expected to begin Tuesday, Oct. 15, according to a memo issued by the court.

Caption: Mr. Politi speaks with reporters at a Sept. 24 court appearance for Mr. Murphy.

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