Will the decision to overturn the corruption conviction of former State Senate leader Dean Skelos have any impact on the cases of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto?
Both have pleaded not guilty to federal corruption-related charges. And both in separate pretrial court filings have argued that findings in a U.S. Supreme Court case cited by a Manhattan federal appeals court as justification for overturning Skelos’ conviction also apply to their cases.
Attorneys for Mangano and Venditto did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday. John Marzulli, a spokesman for federal prosecutors in New York’s Eastern District, said the office would have no comment.
Last year, in a case involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that convictions for corruption could rest only on an “official act” — that is, some formal exercise of government power.
“ . . . An ‘official act’ is a decision or action on a ‘question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy,’ ” Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote in the top court’s unanimous decision. “Setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event (or agreeing to do so) — without more — does not fit that definition of an ‘official act.’ ”
Mangano and Venditto were charged last year with conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice. Mangano also was charged with extortion, and Venditto with making false statements to federal agents. The charges revolve around a relationship involving Mangano, Venditto and Long Island restaurateur Harendra Singh, who is charged in a separate federal case.
All three men have pleaded not guilty, and in court filings, Venditto and Mangano use the McDonnell case to argue that some counts against them should be dismissed.
A court filing in Venditto’s case, for example, argues that because Mangano had no authority over Venditto, allegations that they acted together to have Oyster Bay Town back private loans for Singh, a town vendor and longtime Mangano friend, have no merit.
Venditto also argues that prosecutors are wrong in alleging an “official act” by Venditto on some Singh loans because Venditto never signed off on them.
Mangano, in his filings, makes similar arguments.
“Mr. Mangano did not direct, supervise, or exercise any degree of control over John Venditto,” according to one brief. “At most, the Government appears to be alleging that one politician sought to encourage or persuade another politician to undertake a certain course of action. But this is not ‘pressure’ under the McDonnell standard.”
As to allegations that Mangano and his wife, Linda — who had a job at a Singh restaurant — received gifts, the court filing notes that “ . . . the receipt of a salary or even a gift, standing alone, is entirely lawful. The Government is additionally required to prove that Mr. Mangano performed or agreed to perform an ‘official act’ in exchange for such things of value.” Yet one count in the 13-count indictment “does not specify which purported official acts the Government is relying upon.”
A judge has yet to rule on the motions, and the trial for Mangano and Venditto is slated to begin in January.
As for Skelos and his son, Adam, prosecutors said they intend to retry the case.