Sandy Annabi's lawyer appeals conviction, saying evidence was weak

Edward Sapone walks out of federal court with Edward Sapone walks out of federal court with his client Sandy Annabi after she was sentenced in federal court in Manhattan to six years in prison in a bribery case. (Nov. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Rory Glaeseman

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Sandy Annabi's lawyer filed an appeal that asks a panel of federal judges to throw out her public corruption conviction and free her from a Connecticut prison.

Annabi's lawyer, Edward Sapone, filed the 70-page brief, accompanied by more than 1,600 pages of supporting documentation, that charges jurors began discussing the case among themselves before they were supposed to and that the evidence against the 42-year-old former Yonkers City Council member was not strong enough to sustain a guilty verdict.

"The verdict was supported by speculation and impermissible inference," Sapone wrote in the brief submitted about 11 p.m. Tuesday night to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan as the midnight deadline for such an appeal drew near. "The only way the jury could have found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt was to have added inference upon inference and speculation to its deliberations."

Sapone claimed in his brief that an unidentified alternate juror sent a letter to federal prosecutors that stated jurors had been discussing the case during lunch breaks. The letter didn't specify exactly when that occurred.

Sapone did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Annabi and her co-conspirator and political mentor Zehy Jereis were convicted March 30, 2012, in federal court in Manhattan of scheming to sell her City Council vote on two development projects in Yonkers -- the $600 million office, apartment and retail complex called Ridge Hill and a smaller school redevelopment plan called the Longfellow Project. The latter project never got off the ground.

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Jereis bought Annabi's vote with nearly $200,00 in cash and gifts during several years, prosecutors said.

"The evidence showed that Ms. Annabi voted for the Longfellow and Ridge Hill projects only after she won concessions from the respective developers that made the projects, in her eyes, much more advantageous to the public," Sapone wrote.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment on Annabi's appeal. The Appeals Court has not set a date for federal prosecutors Perry Carbone and Jason P.W. Halperin to file their reply to Annabi's appeal.

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Annabi, who has maintained her innocence, reported to a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., on Monday to begin serving her 6-year prison sentence.

Jereis, 41, the former GOP boss of Yonkers -- as well as Annabi's cousin -- reported to a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., the same day to begin serving a 4-year sentence. He also is appealing his conviction.

Annabi's prison term was longer because she also was convicted of mortgage fraud.

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