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A federal prosecutor said a Huntington attorney is being investigated for witness tampering in a case that resulted in a mistrial for one of his clients, an alleged Bloods street gang member charged with murder, court records show.
The revelation in federal court in Central Islip Monday prompted U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert to “disqualify” Christopher Cassar when a prosecutor said the defense attorney was the subject of the probe for allegedly attempting to influence a potential federal witness in the murder case, the records say.
Seybert also ordered a mistrial in the case of the client, Lawrence Lewis, and ordered the defendant to get a new attorney, the records say.
“At this juncture, based on the texts you sent to the witness, it appears that there could be no other reasonable explanation than to corrupt the witness with your version of the facts,” Seybert said in her ruling.
Cassar, 56, did not return calls requesting comment but in court said the allegation is false.
“I have never heard a more frivolous argument out of the government in my entire life,” court papers quote him as saying during a Monday court appearance.
A spokesman for Eastern District prosecutors, John Marzulli, declined to comment.
Lewis, 37, of Calverton, an alleged Bloods member known by the street name of “L Boggs,” was in the eighth day of a trial in which he is charged with killing a man named John Birt in July of 2017 at the Illusions Gentlemen’s Club in Deer Park.
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Seybert acted after a federal prosecutor not involved in the murder case, but in an overall Cassar investigation, told the judge that Cassar was being investigated for the witness tampering in the Lewis case, as part of an ongoing investigation into other allegations of tampering by the Huntington attorney in unrelated cases.
Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile did not give further details of the overall tampering investigation, the records said.
Mirabile said the latest investigation involved Cassar allegedly sending a newspaper article to a government witness in the Lewis case that involved a case similar to the attorney’s defense of his client, shortly after he learned the witnesses was probably going to testify.
Lewis’ defense centered on the idea that the victim, Birt, accidentally shot himself. The July 2016 article from the New York Post recounted an NYPD police officer accidentally shooting himself.
Lewis is charged with killing Birt after the victim and several friends were posing for a picture at the club, when a Bloods associate of Lewis attempted to get into the picture, displaying a gang hand sign, officials have said.
A dispute then ensued and Lewis pulled out a handgun and fatally shot Birt, officials have said.
“The simple act of taking a photo ended in a man losing his life, all because a gang member was allegedly offended and decided to retaliate,” William Sweeney, the head of the FBI in New York, said at the time of Lewis’ arrest in 2018. “It is hard to fathom how the suspect in this case weighted exposing his illegal drug trade, and his illegal weapons because he wanted to prove how tough he is to rivals.”
In addition to the Birt murder, Lewis was also charged with a number of other crimes, including conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, illegal possession of firearms and witness tampering.
Those witness tampering allegations against Lewis are apparently unrelated to the ones Cassar is said to be investigated for, making several unrelated tampering accusations against Cassar and Lewis.
Conviction on federal tampering charges can lead to a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Bob Kessler covers federal law, including law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, DEA, IRS and ATF, as well as the federal courts.