Former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi and co-defendant Zehy Jereis asked a federal judge Friday to throw out their public corruption convictions or give them new trials, saying the jury that convicted them did not have enough proof to find them guilty.
Annabi and former Yonkers Republican Party boss Jereis were convicted of bribery and conspiracy charges March 29 following a six-week trial in federal court in Manhattan. The two faced a deadline of midnight Friday to contest the convictions. Annabi’s filing came in just under the wire at 10:00 p.m.
Annabi, a former four-term Democratic council member and leader of the party’s council majority, said federal prosecutors presented no evidence of “a meeting of the minds” between Jereis and Annabi to engage in a scheme to sell her vote on development projects.
Federal prosecutors said Jereis paid Annabi more than $170,000 in gifts and cash between 2002 and 2008 to control her vote when it benefitted him.
But Annabi’s lawyer Edward Sapone, scoffed at that claim.
“That theory, respectfully, is a fantasy,” Sapone wrote in his court filing. “To infer a corrupt agreement from payment alone goes beyond circumstantial evidence...and instead constitutes speculation.”
Sapone also agreed with Jereis' claims that federal prosecutors failed to disclose before the trial that their witnesses — including turncoat lawyer Anthony Mangone — told different stories about a bribe that Jereis was convicted of paying Annabi to garner her city council vote.
Mangone, who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, said he paid a bribe to Jereis in 2006 to give to Annabi. That bribe was paid on behalf of father-and-son Yonkers developers, Antonio and Franco Milio, who also testified.
Mangone told federal prosecutors he received a $40,000 payment from the Milios in one lump sum. The Milios said they gave Mangone two $20,000 payments.
Jereis’ lawyer said prosecutors were obligated by law to inform Jereis and Annabi about the different versions.
“This failure to disclose ... the contradictions between the Milios on one hand and Anthony Mangone on the other … undermines the fairness of the trial,” Jereis’ lawyer Anthony Siano wrote in court papers asking McMahon to overturn the guilty verdict.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment Friday. Prosecutors will file court papers with McMahon in early July opposing Jereis and Annabi’s bids.
Annabi, 41, and Jereis, 40, were convicted of scheming to sell her council vote on two development projects in Yonkers -- the Milios' planned redevelopment of the Longfellow School and the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill mixed-use project.
The Longfellow School project never secured approval, but prosecutors said the bribe was paid through Mangone to secure Annabi's support for it in 2006. Jereis and Annabi denied it.
"Jereis submits that the government hid this contradiction in order to conceal a potentially fatal flaw in the story Mangone chose to give," Siano wrote.
Annabi's vote on the Ridge Hill project the same year as the Longfellow project was also bought with bribe money, prosecutors said.
Annabi's decision to switch her vote in favor of the Ridge Hill project in June 2006 was decisive in getting the high-end shopping mall and housing project built.
Annabi was convicted of changing her vote at the behest of Jereis who had secured a $60,000 nonspecific consulting contract from the developer, Forest City Ratner, with the promise that he could get Annabi's vote in favor of the project. The developer was never charged with wrongdoing.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Perry Carbone and Jason P.W. Halperin said Jereis had assured control of Annabi's council vote on the development projects by plying her with about $170,000 in bribes. He paid her in cash and gifts while Annabi was on the city council beginning in 2002 until 2008, prosecutors said. She served on the council until 2009.
Jereis testified at trial that the cash and gifts were a bid by the married Jereis to win Annabi's heart. Annabi is single.
A $550,000 Yonkers home Annabi bought with the help of $10,000 in bribe money from Jereis is in foreclosure proceedings. Annabi's parents live in the three-bedroom house on Bacon Place.
In an interview with Newsday published in May, Annabi said the verdict was a "complete shock" because she was "not guilty of any counts."
Mangone pleaded guilty in November 2010 to bribery and tax charges connected to the bribes. He was indicted along with Annabi and Jereis were in January 2010 following a three-year investigation. Annabi and Jereis charges included conspiracy and bribery for Annabi and Jereis. Annabi also was convicted of mortgage fraud.
Annabi faces more than 160 years in federal prison by statute, though sentencing guidelines likely will call for no more than 15 years behind bars. Jereis faces a maximum of 65 years.
Sentencing for both is scheduled for Sept. 20.