Tankleff Team Cites Conflict
By Robin Topping

October 23, 2003

Defense attorneys for Martin Tankleff, the Belle Terre man convicted of murdering his parents, have asked Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota to recuse himself from re-investigating the case because he once represented the detective who took a confession from Tankleff.

Ten years ago, Spota, then a private attorney, represented James McCready - the Suffolk homicide detective who questioned Tankleff the morning after the murders in 1988 - in a case involving assault and robbery charges. McCready, then retired, was acquitted after a bench trial in Suffolk County Court.

Defense lawyers for Tankleff recently asked a Suffolk County Court judge to set aside Tankleff's conviction because of new evidence: an affidavit from an inmate who said he drove two men who supposedly killed Arlene and Seymour Tankleff to and from their home the night of the murders.

One of Tankleff's attorneys, Bruce Barket of Garden City said, "I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Spota as a prosecutor ... but we do have some concerns, given that he represented a detective we maintain improperly extracted a confession from an innocent man."

Barket said he asked Spota to consider the request this week but had not yet made a formal motion. A Spota spokesman, Robert Clifford, said, "We can't respond to a motion that hasn't been made."

Roy Simon, a legal ethics professor at Hofstra School of Law, said he didn't see a conflict in Spota prosecuting the case because the prior case was unrelated to the Tankleff matter and police business. Moreover, he said, Spota is not McCready's adversary in court, and so is not revealing client secrets.

"It doesn't appear the matters are related," he said."

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