Long Beach councilman's larceny trial to wrap up

Democratic councilman Michael Fagen responds to a presentation Democratic councilman Michael Fagen responds to a presentation by an external auditor regarding Long Beach's struggling finances. (Feb. 6, 2012) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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The trial of indicted Long Beach city Councilman Michael Fagen will reach final arguments Tuesday, two weeks after it began.

Fagen is on trial for larceny -- prosecutors say he collected more than $15,000 in unemployment benefits between January and September 2010 while he was employed as a city councilman, a position he still holds.

Prosecutors and Fagen's defense attorney Monday finished questioning a final witness -- Jay Hong, a senior investigator with the state Department of Labor.

Fagen's attorney, Marc Gann of Mineola, repeated his claims that Fagen was a part-time employee who was eligible for unemployment benefits under state law. He said Hong and other investigators lacked proof of Fagen's work schedule, and relied too heavily on a journal Fagen kept between January and April 2010.

"You have no idea what his work was" between April and September of that year, Fagen said. "You used that diary to extrapolate."

Hong responded that investigators have other proof, including records of Fagen's emails.

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"We had other estimates to substantiate his work status," Hong said. "He kept insisting he was a part-time employee because he didn't work eight hours a day."

Fagen earns about $20,000 per year as a city council member, a position city officials have said they consider full time. Gann has argued that Fagen's work schedule is that of a part-time worker.

Gann also has said Fagen was coerced into keeping the diary by political enemies in Long Beach City Hall who wanted to use it against him. But prosecutor Marshall Trager said in court that Fagen -- a Democrat who came into office when Long Beach was controlled by Republicans -- reached out to those enemies for help in preparing the diary, which was necessary to enter into the state pension system.

Fagen faces felony charges of third-degree grand larceny, petty larceny and 38 counts of offering a false instrument for filing. He faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 9:30 a.m. at Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola.

Attorneys for both sides declined to speculate on whether the jury was likely to reach a verdict Tuesday.

"There's a lot to digest," Gann said after court adjourned. "This is serious."

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