In December 2008, veteran criminal defense attorney Robert Macedonio appeared in a Suffolk County courtroom, this time as a defendant. “It’s embarrassing for me to be standing here,” Macedonio told Judge James Hudson as he pleaded guilty to felony cocaine possession.
The plea cost Macedonio his law license. A career that saw him rise from a junior Suffolk County prosecutor to a sought-after attorney for high-profile defendants appeared over.
But three years later — under unusual circumstances that have been largely hidden from public view — Hudson and District Attorney Thomas Spota allowed Macedonio to reduce his felony conviction to a misdemeanor, paving the way for him to regain his law license.
Macedonio got his second chance under a legal provision designed to correct miscarriages of justice, such as when new evidence clears the innocent or when prosecutorial error or fraud undermines a conviction. Such circumstances have not been publicly disclosed in the Macedonio case, raising questions of how an attorney with long-standing ties to Suffolk County’s law enforcement system faced no opposition as he successfully wiped away his felony guilty plea.
Answers to those questions are elusive because so much of the Macedonio case — from the investigation to the prosecution to the vacated felony conviction — remains secret. Records have been sealed without explanation or were not filed at all. One batch of documents at the county clerk’s office has been hidden from the public in a manila envelope bearing the following handwritten message: “This envelope as well as why sealed is sealed!”
Newsday obtained some of the sealed records, and they reveal that behind what appears on the surface to be a routine drug possession case was actually an extensive investigation by Spota’s office into financial crimes that included mortgage fraud.
The records show investigators spent at least a year probing alleged criminal activity involving Macedonio, and they uncovered enough evidence to convince judges to authorize them to raid Macedonio’s law office and seize his bank accounts and property.
An investigator would allege after the raid that Macedonio had used his law firm’s escrow account to launder funds in a mortgage fraud scam. Prosecutors would file court records estimating that the proceeds of the alleged criminal schemes tied to Macedonio exceeded $4 million.
Despite the allegations and the resources poured into the DA’s investigation, the results were minimal. The criminal charges against Macedonio and four associates linked to him were either dropped or ended with light plea deals, and none of the targets received more than nine months in jail. The available records do not explain how an ambitious financial crimes investigation into Macedonio ended in a simple drug possession charge.
Newsday asked Hudson to unseal records from the case, including the search warrant affidavit investigators filed with him to justify the raid of Macedonio’s office. The document could reveal the evidence investigators had gathered and, for the first time, allow the public to consider the merits of the district attorney’s pursuit of Macedonio.
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