Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano wants the political corruption case against him thrown out, saying the government engaged in “selective prosecution” by indicting him but not New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for getting financial benefits from Long Island restaurateur Harendra Singh.
The argument by Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, is based on the recent disclosure by prosecutors that Singh secretly pleaded guilty to bribing Mangano in return for millions of dollars in indirect loan guarantees and county contracts.
The revelations also included that Singh pleaded guilty to bribing an unnamed city official for help in obtaining renewal on favorable terms of the lease on city land for the Water’s Edge, his Queens waterfront restaurant.
The city official whom Singh pleaded guilty to bribing is identified in the proceedings only as Official #2. The mayor is not identified by name in the superseding information Singh pleaded to or in the official transcript of Singh’s plea. But de Blasio’s interaction with Singh coincides with the details in the restaurateur’s plea.
“The new revelations in this case demonstrate: (1) that prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York had both ample evidence and authority to charge Mayor de Blasio; and (2) that they nevertheless made a choice not to pursue such charges,” Keating wrote — that each quid, or campaign contribution, required a specific quo, or corrupt action by the politician.
In response, in papers filed Tuesday, Eastern District prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz said while both cases involved investigations into potential bribery, legally there was a fundamental difference between the two: the Mangano case involved personal enrichment, giving of gifts and a no-show job to Mangano’s wife while DeBlasio’s involved campaign contributions.
Such legal distinctions are illustrated in the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell. That case involved campaign contributions and also led to the overturning of the corruption convictions of two former powers in New York State politics — Sheldon Silver, the longtime Democratic speaker of the State Assembly, and Dean Skelos, the former Republican majority leader of the State Senate.
“Merely because Singh pleaded guilty to bribing de Blasio using campaign contributions and Mangano using personal enrichments does not make the cases similar either factually or legally,” Treinis Gatz wrote.
U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack is expected to rule on Mangano’s motion for dismissal as well as other motions in the case sometime in February.
Singh, 59, of Syosset, secretly pleaded guilty in October 2016 to bribing Mangano and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto and trying to bribe the unnamed New York City official, records show.
De Blasio was investigated by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Last March, prosecutors said they would not prosecute de Blasio after examining his fundraising practices.
De Blasio told WNYC last week of Singh, “This has been looked at really carefully. Nothing that he describes as having happened, happened, period.”
Last year, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Joon Kim, who closed a probe of whether de Blasio traded favors for contributions from donors that included Singh, said prosecutors found “several circumstances” where the mayor “made or directed inquiries to relevant City agencies” on behalf of donors seeking “official favors.”
But he said the 2016 Supreme Court McDonnell decision narrowing federal corruption laws — and the “difficulty in proving criminal intent in corruption schemes where there is no evidence of personal profit” — made prosecuting inappropriate.
In the charging document, federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York said Singh paid bribes and kickbacks to Nassau and Oyster Bay officials. Town officials, in return, indirectly guaranteed loans to Singh’s companies, papers said. Both the town and the county awarded him contracts in return for bribes, the document said.
The government unsealed Singh’s plea and related documents last week as part of discovery disclosed to Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda Mangano, and Venditto, who are facing their own federal corruption charges.
Edward Mangano has been charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and extortion. Linda Mangano has been charged with making false statements, conspiracy, extortion and obstruction of justice. Venditto is facing charges of conspiracy, bribery, securities fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice. All have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go on trial in March.