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BY ALFONSO A. CASTILLO
April 29, 2008
Martin Tankleff's legal team wants the state attorney general's office to break its silence on what it has been up to since taking over the 20-year-old murder case four months ago.
In a pair of motions filed Tuesday, Tankleff's attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City, asked a judge to force prosecutors to disclose information about the grand jury investigating the Tankleff case -- including whether the grand jury is being "tainted" by Suffolk prosecutors.
Cuomo said Tuesday night his office was simply seeking the truth.
"We're a fresh set of eyes," he said. "We have no agenda. We're not involved in any of the past intrigue -- no vested interest, just to find the truth ... and whatever it is it is."
Tankleff was convicted in 1990 of murdering his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, in their Belle Terre home. An appellate court overturned his conviction in December. Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota then referred the case to a special prosecutor.
Barket said that since Cuomo took over the case in January, his prosecutors have been "absolutely, completely silent about what they're doing" and have failed to address several key concerns.
Among the concerns are whether the sitting grand jury is considering only evidence in the case or is also hearing other criminal cases presented by Suffolk prosecutors, who Tankleff's lawyers said could be a potential target of an investigation because of their mishandling of Tankleff's case.
"The integrity of the grand jury process requires that the grand jury investigating this case not be tainted by the conflicted Office of the Suffolk County District Attorney," the motion stated. "If the special prosecutor is doing a thorough job, the grand jury will consider evidence that the criminal justice process in Suffolk County was infirm."
Tankleff's lawyers have blasted Suffolk police and prosecutors for failing to thoroughly investigate evidence implicating Seymour Tankleff's former business partner, Jerry Steuerman, and the two men they say Steuerman hired to carry out the killings. All have denied involvement in the killings.
Suffolk prosecutors declined to comment.
In the motion, Tankleff's lawyers also demand assurance that the grand jury was not empaneled to develop evidence to be used against Tankleff at a possible retrial. Tankleff, who is free on bail, is still under a 1988 grand jury murder indictment.
"While the special prosecutor is new to this case, this is not a new case" the motion stated.
In a separate motion, Tankleff's lawyers asked State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle to force prosecutors to turn over any evidence of Tankleff's innocence that had been previously withheld by Suffolk prosecutors.
That includes a recording of a 2007 conversation Suffolk prosecutor Leonard Lato had with a pair of witnesses who said they had information about the guilt of Joseph Creedon -- one of the men Tankleff's attorneys say was actually behind the slayings.
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