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Annabi may appeal bribery conviction, lawyer says

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

Former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi could file an appeal of her bribery conviction as soon as Tuesday, her lawyer said, after a federal judge said it was a "close call" on overturning a federal jury's guilty verdict on bribery charges.

"That's why I'm going to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (on Tuesday)," her lawyer Edward V. Sapone said after U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon sentenced Annabi to six years in prison for accepting nearly $200,000 in bribes from former Yonkers GOP boss Zehy Jereis so he could control her vote on the council.

Prosecutors said Annabi, 42, a Democrat, flipped her vote twice in 2006 on key development projects in the city -- including the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill project -- at Jereis' behest.

But, Annabi's lawyer argued to McMahon, that theory meant she would have been accepting bribes for nearly five years without doing anything for Jereis. Annabi was elected to the council in 2001. Sapone and McMahon referred to it as the "five-year Don Corleone" conspiracy, a reference to a situation in the "Godfather" movies in which a favor is granted in return for an undefined future payback.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone, however, said regardless of how close a call McMahon thought it was, Annabi and Jereis have a tough hill to climb to get an appeals court to overturn the verdict, noting that successful challenges to the sufficiency of evidence on which a jury renders a guilty verdict are not common.

McMahon sentenced Jereis, 40, to four years in prison.

Before sentencing, a tearful Annabi said she came to refer to Jereis as her "sugar daddy" and acknowledged missteps in her political career.

"I accepted help without question and I often buried my head in the sand," she said, crying as the white piece of paper on which she'd composed her thoughts shook in her hands. A packed, hushed courtroom crowd leaned forward as one to hear her sob-muffled words.

Before the 2-hour, 15-minute hearing began, Annabi's mother, Mae, was escorted from the courtroom by her daughter -- dressed in a black pinstriped business suit -- and another relative when she broke down in tears.

Referring to Jereis, a sobbing Annabi said, "I was starving for . . . affection . . . and someone to give me guidance."

An unnerved Jereis declined to speak on his own behalf Monday.

At their trial, Jereis had maintained that he had lavished gifts and money on Annabi in an attempt to romance her. But McMahon said she, like the jury, didn't accept that story and scolded Annabi for making herself vulnerable.

"You made yourself corruptible and when the opportunity arose, you were corrupted," the judge said.

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