Tankleff lawyers: Judge may have conflict of interest


This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

May 8, 2008

Martin Tankleff's attorneys Friday will ask the Suffolk judge overseeing a grand jury in his case to recuse himself because of a possible conflict of interest.

Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson is presiding over a grand jury that is considering evidence in the murders of Tankleff's parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, who were beaten and slashed to death in their Belle Terre home in 1988.

Martin Tankleff, who was 17 at the time, was charged with the murder after he said police unlawfully coerced him to confess. He served 17 years of a 50-year-to-life prison sentence before an appellate court overturned his conviction in December.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo took over the prosecution of the case after Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota requested a special prosecutor in January.

Tankleff, who is free on bail, is still indicted and is set to return to court next month.

According to Tankleff's attorneys, Hudson informed them earlier this week that he worked as a deputy bureau chief in the Suffolk district attorney's office during the original prosecution of the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Tankleff's attorneys have said that the Suffolk district attorney's office should be one of the targets of the attorney general's probe. They have criticized the office 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 slayings.

Newsday stories from the time indicate Hudson was deputy chief of the office's white collar crime bureau under former District Attorney James Catterson and also worked as a prosecutor under Catterson's predecessor, Patrick Henry.

Last week, Tankleff's lawyers filed a pair of motions asking Hudson to force state prosecutors to disclose some information regarding the grand jury now hearing evidence in the case.

Officials with the attorney general's office did not return calls for comment. Tankleff's attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City, said he expects Hudson to "act reasonably" in response to the argument he will make Friday.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.