Sandy Annabi's appeal refiled just before deadline
Sandy Annabi's lawyer scrambled to reorganize more than 1,700 pages of legal documents and filed them in eight packages less than four hours before a deadline that would have killed his appeal of her public corruption conviction.
The disgraced former Yonkers City Council member's hopes of getting her conviction overturned hung in the balance as the clock ticked toward midnight Monday night because the original filing of her appeal did not conform to rules set by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
"It was difficult arranging the voluminous brief and appendices to comply with the rules," lawyer Edward Sapone said after filing the papers after 8 p.m. Monday night.
Last week, Annabi, 42, began serving a six-year prison sentence for her conviction on charges she schemed with former Yonkers GOP boss Zehy Jereis, 41, to sell her council vote on development projects in the city -- including the controversial $600 million office and retail complex Ridge Hill.
Edward Sapone filed 1,700 pages of paperwork last Tuesday in support of an appeal. The appeal claimed the evidence against Annabi was not strong enough to sustain a guilty verdict and that alleged juror misconduct -- talking about the case while the trial was going on -- should nullify the verdict.
But Sapone's filing was not in accordance with the strict procedures of the appeals court, court clerk Catherine O'Hagan Wolfe said.
"Failure to cure the defects by [March 11] will result in the document being stricken," Wolfe wrote to Sapone.
Sapone's office was notified of the court's opinion Friday and worked through the weekend and all day and evening Monday to get the appeal into compliance.
His original appeal did not include a "special appendix" required of all appellate filings greater than 300 pages. Another defect was the document was not divided into separate 300-page volumes, court officials said.
Although the rules are technical, failure to follow them can end an appeal before it has a chance to be heard by a three-judge appeals court panel.
Each of the appeals packages Sapone filed Monday came in at under 300 pages.
"The appeal is exactly the same, just organized to comply with the directives of the appeals court," he said.
Jereis already has filed his appeal. He began serving a four-year prison sentence March 4 at a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., the same day Annabi reported to a federal prison in Danbury, Conn.
Annabi reported to prison still proclaiming her innocence and saying she would "hold her head up high" in an interview with Newsday minutes before she left her parents' Yonkers home for Danbury.
A federal appeals court on March 1 denied Annabi's emergency appeal to remain free on bail while her appeal is pending.
Annabi and Jereis were convicted March 30, 2012, by a federal jury in Manhattan on charges that Jereis bribed Annabi, a two-term Democrat and his cousin, with nearly $200,000 in gifts and cash during several years to control her vote on the City Council. Prosecutors said she changed her vote at Jereis' behest on the Ridge Hill residential and shopping complex and on a smaller school redevelopment plan called the Longfellow Project.
At Jereis and Annabi's Nov. 19 sentencing, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said she did not believe Jereis' story that the gifts and cash were not bribes but a bid to win Annabi's heart. Prosecutors said Jereis concocted the lovelorn story -- even creating fake romance-laced emails -- to further the deception. Jereis is married.
"The only love these two shared was a love of money," Perry Carbone, an assistant U.S. attorney, said during the trial.
At her trial, Annabi said she was innocent but "accepted help without question and often buried my head in the sand."
In the interview March 4, Annabi declined to answer questions about her case while it is under appeal, but she said it is possible that someday she could return to the Yonkers City Council.
"Anything is possible," she said.