Sandy Annabi denied bail, to remain behind bars

Former Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi leaves Former Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi leaves federal court after her sentencing in Manhattan. (Nov. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Rory Glaeseman

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Federal judges nixed former Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi's bid to get out of prison while she appeals her public corruption conviction.

Two federal appellate court judges on Tuesday unanimously upheld a lower court's decision not to allow Annabi to go free on bail. The 42-year-old former city official began serving a 6-year prison sentence March 4 in Danbury, Conn.

Defense attorney Edward Sapone is challenging whether there was enough evidence against Annabi and whether jurors behaved properly in convicting her of bribery and extortion. The case is pending before the Second Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

Annabi's lawyer, said that although the bail denial was a setback, "We recognize to obtain bail pending appeal one must overcome a gargantuan hurdle.

"Ms. Annabi and I feel confident she will be vindicated in her appeal," he added.

On March 3, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Reena Raggi temporarily denied the request. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Gerard Lynch and Richard Wesley heard the arguments Tuesday by Sapone and assistant U.S. Attorneys Perry Carbone and Jason P.W. Halperin. The prosecutors maintained that Annabi's bail request should be denied because there was an overwhelming amount of evidence that the Democrat had schemed with former Yonkers GOP boss Zehy Jereis to sell her council vote on two development projects.

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A third judge, Debra Livingston, who was supposed to be on the panel, recused herself for an undisclosed reason.

Tuesday's ruling means it could be a year or more before Annabi has another chance at freedom as her appeal winds its way through the courts.

Herbert Hadad, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, declined to comment.

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Jereis and Annabi were convicted March 30, 2012, after a six-week trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Jereis is serving a 4-year prison term at a federal facility in Lewisburg, Pa.

A third defendant, Anthony Mangone, a politically connected lawyer, pleaded guilty earlier in the case and agreed to testify against Annabi and Jereis. He has not been sentenced.

The investigation -- one of the biggest public corruption probes in the region in years -- also led to the convictions of two powerful Republican leaders, former Yonkers state Sen. Nicholas Spano, 60, and former Putnam County state Sen. Vincent Leibell, 66. Spano was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to a year behind bars and Leibell was convicted of bribery and obstruction of justice and sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Leibell's right-hand man, Raymond Maguire, also was convicted of lying to federal agents investigating Leibell and was imprisoned for four months.

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Prosecutors said Jereis paid Annabi nearly $200,000 in gifts and cash to control her vote -- including her decisive vote in 2006 to approve the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill development -- an office, apartment, and shopping complex near the Greenburgh border.

Annabi and Jereis, 41, who are distant cousins, denied the accusations. Jereis, who is married, testified at the trial that the gifts and cash were romantic overtures to win the heart of Annabi, who is single.

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