A rising star in the NYPD was stripped of his badge and gun after asserting his right against self incrimination in an ongoing FBI and internal affairs probe of possible bribery and illegal gifts to some high-ranking officers, according to legal and law enforcement sources.
Deputy Chief John Sprague, who was tapped by Commissioner William Bratton last year to command a special force investigation unit, was the latest officer to be disciplined as a result of the investigation.
A terse message from NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis said only that Sprague, who once commanded precincts in Brooklyn and Staten Island, was placed on modified assignment and given an administrative position as a result of the probe.
A law enforcement source said Sprague asserted his Fifth Amendment right in connection with a federal grand jury investigation. Under current, NYPD practice, refusal to cooperate or testify before a grand jury can be grounds for discipline, the source said.
However, Sprague’s attorney, Michael Farkas, indicated in a statement Thursday night that his client was willing to talk with police investigators.
“Deputy Chief Sprague has exercised the same rights we all share as citizens under the U.S. Constitution. However, as a dedicated public official who has served the people of this city for many years, he intends to answer all questions put to him by the Police Department during its investigation,” Farkas said.
The law enforcement source said Sprague was highly regarded in the NYPD. Sprague for a time did command the 66th Precinct in Brooklyn, an area with a heavy Hasidic population, the source said. According to law enforcement officials and news reports, the investigation is looking into improper gifts such as vacations, plane trips, Super Bowl tickets and even the services of a prostitute from two politically connected Brooklyn businessmen in return for providing police funeral escorts and other things for some members of the Hasidic community.
At least two other high-ranking police officers who have been disciplined in the probe also were commanders in the 66th Precinct.