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Annabi replaces lawyer to fight conviction

Former Yonkers city councilwoman Sandy Annabi.

Former Yonkers city councilwoman Sandy Annabi. Photo Credit: Handout

Former Yonkers City Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, convicted in March of public corruption charges, has hired a new lawyer in her fight to avoid prison.

Manhattan lawyer Edward V. Sapone told Newsday he is representing Annabi as she appeals her March 29 conviction on public corruption charges.

"I intend to scour the record to assist the court in directing Ms. Annabi's acquittal," Rapone said.

White Plains lawyer Willian Aronwald, her previous attorney, said Annabi told him April 26 she was making the change. It's not uncommon for defendants to hire a new lawyer to handle appeals.

Annabi, a Democrat, and Zehy Jereis, the former Yonkers Republican Party chief, were convicted of conspiracy charges in a bribery scheme to sell her vote on the City Council. The votes involved development projects in the city, including the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill project.

"It's still my opinion that the evidence submitted by the government was not sufficient to convict her," said Aronwald, who represented Annabi during her six-week trial in federal court in Manhattan.

Annabi told him Thursday night she was replacing him with Sapone, a lawyer Aronwald said he does not know.

Aronwald called the parting amicable, saying he and Annabi had discussed the possibility of hiring a new lawyer for the post-conviction phase "to get a fresh set of eyes on the evidence and transcript."

Annabi has until June 18 to appeal the verdict.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office also did not respond to requests for comment.

Jereis still is represented by Anthony Siano, a White Plains lawyer, who, like Aronwald is a former prosecutor.

Jereis' lawyer also has vowed to appeal his conviction. To pay for it, a legal-defense fund has been set up. The Zehy Jereis Defense Fund has scheduled a fundraiser for Thursday night at the Surf Club in New Rochelle, with benefactors asked to contribute up to $500 each. Ben Mondello, a local accountant, is listed as the fund's treasurer. He did not return calls seeking comment.

A third defendant in the case, politically connected lawyer Anthony Mangone, pleaded guilty before the trial and signed a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors. He was the star government witness at the trial.

Annabi and Jereis were convicted of all charges in the indictment that was originally filed in January 2010 following a three-year investigation. The charges included conspiracy and bribery for Annabi and Jereis. Annabi also was convicted of mortgage fraud.

Annabi faces more than 160 years in prison by statute, though sentencing guidelines likely will call for no more than 15 years behind bars. Jereis faces a maximum of 65 years in prison.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 20.

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