Cuomo named special prosecutor in Tankleff case


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Gov. Eliot Spitzer has appointed Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo as special prosecutor to investigate the murders of Arlene and Seymour Tankleff.

In a statement released this morning, Spitzer said the appointment authorized Cuomo to "consider all of the evidence gathered so far and to conduct his own investigation."

At the conclusion of his investigation, Cuomo can "prosecute the person or persons found to be responsible for this crime."

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota on Jan. 2 had requested that Spitzer name a special prosecutor to re-examine the case.

"This tragic case requires further investigation, and I agree with District Attorney Spota that the most prudent course is to appoint a special prosecutor," said Spitzer in a news release today. "The issues that troubled the Appellate Division need to be freshly and thoroughly examined. The Attorney General's Office has the expertise and resources to investigate this case fully and fairly."

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said: "My office is ready to start moving forward with this investigation right away, including gathering the information already collected by law enforcement and Mr. Tankleff's attorneys. We will follow the evidence wherever it leads us."

Martin Tankleff, 36, the couple's son, was released on bail Dec. 27 following an Appellate Division ruling vacating his conviction in the killing of his parents on Sept. 7, 1988 in their Belle Terre home.

He had served 17 years in prison for the crime.

A jury convicted him in 1990. He was sentenced to 50 years to life. On Jan. 2, Spota announced that his office would not retry Martin Tankleff for the killings. Spota also announced that he was asking Spitzer to appoint a special prosecutor.

Tankleff maintained his innocence in prison and a team of attorneys and investigators turned up more than two dozen witnesses who implicated other possible suspects.

They included Jerard Steuerman, a business associate of Seymour Tankleff who owed him more than $500,000 and faked his own death, changed his name and fled to California after the killings; and two career criminals, Joseph Creedon and Peter Kent, who the witnesses said were paid by Steuerman to kill the Tankleffs. Seymour Tanlkeff was 62, and Arlene, 54.