Tankleff faces new prosecutor in murder case

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Staff writer Zachary R. Dowdy contributed to this story.

January 19, 2008

Martin Tankleff hoped to walk into a Suffolk court as a murder defendant for the final time Friday, but instead he faced the new prosecutor in his case, who sought to continue investigating the Belle Terre man's role in his parents' murders for at least another month.

Tankleff returned to a Riverhead courtroom Friday for the first time since being freed from prison last month. In December, an appellate court overturned his 1990 conviction in the murder of his parents, Arlene and Seymour Tankleff.

Earlier this month, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said he planned to ask State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle to drop the charges against Tankleff at Friday's court appearance.

Tankleff and his supporters celebrated finally putting the charges behind him, but the dismissal was put on hold when Gov. Eliot Spitzer last week appointed the state attorney general's office to take over the case.

"We've waited for 20 years for justice to be served to Marty Tankleff. We can wait another 30 days," said attorney Barry Pollack, of Washington, D.C., as he stood beside his client outside the courtroom. "But it is time to bring the matter to a close."

In court Friday, Tankleff and his attorneys met the case's new prosecutor, Benjamin Rosenberg, chief trial counsel for the attorney general's office. Rosenberg asked Doyle for another month to decide how to proceed with the case, if at all. Tankleff will return to court on Feb. 15.

"The case has a substantial history," Rosenberg said in court. He declined to comment as he left the courthouse and a spokesman from his office later declined to comment further.

Tankleff's attorneys, Bruce Barket, of Garden City, and Pollack, also asked Rosenberg to turn over any forensic evidence from the 1988 Belle Terre murder scene, as well as any known DNA samples from Joseph Creedon and Peter Kent - the two men who Tankleff's attorneys say committed the murders at the behest of Seymour Tankleff's business partner, Jerry Steuerman.

Steuerman, Kent and Creedon have denied any involvement in the slayings.

Tankleff's uncle, Ronald Falbee, said that while he was disappointed that his nephew's charges were not dropped Friday, he is nonetheless "extremely pleased" that the attorney general has taken over the case.

Barket said the sooner the new prosecutors dismiss Tankleff's charges, the sooner they can bring the real killers to justice.

"Right now we are technically adversaries and we have ethical restraints that prohibit us from disclosing to them all that we know," Barket said. "We can be very helpful for them to their investigation."

Staff writer Zachary R. Dowdy contributed to this story.