Harendra Singh, the chief prosecution witness against former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda, testified Tuesday that he didn't deny bribing the former politician in a separate civil case months after the couple's conviction.
The one-time restaurateur took the stand in federal court in Central Islip as the couple’s lawyers seek a new trial for the Manganos by arguing that Singh committed perjury during their 2019 corruption retrial. The hearing before U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack came more than two years after a jury convicted the couple, with Tuesday's proceeding stalled in part by the coronavirus pandemic.
The defense claims that Singh said in a sworn deposition in a civil court case later in 2019 that the bribes he gave the now-former county executive related to Nassau County and "had nothing to do with the Town of Oyster Bay."
The jury had found that Edward Mangano used his influence as Nassau’s then-new county executive in 2010 to sway Oyster Bay officials into indirectly backing what amounted to $20 million in loans for Singh after an outside lawyer for the town called such a transaction illegal.
Jurors rejected the government’s argument that Edward Mangano also repaid Singh by steering two county contracts to him in 2012 that together were worth more than $400,000, one for bread and rolls at Nassau’s jail and one to feed relief workers after Superstorm Sandy.
Singh testified Tuesday that he felt "under duress" while giving testimony in the civil case, in an environment he also described during questioning by prosecutor Catherine Mirabile as "stressful" and "intimidating." The lawyer who was questioning him then was being "a wise guy" and "a jerk," so Singh acted the same way, he told Mirabile.
"I was giving him, not a complete answer," Singh also testified.
But Singh’s civil testimony was "a 180-degree departure from his prior testimony" in the couple’s trial, Edward Mangano's attorney, Kevin Keating, argued in a motion asking for a new trial because of the "newly discovered evidence of perjury." Linda Mangano’s attorney, John Carman, previously joined in the motion.
The U.S. attorney’s office has opposed the motion, saying the couple shouldn't get a new trial and that the defense’s argument "rests exclusively upon select snippets of Singh’s deposition testimony that are mischaracterized and indeed do not contradict his trial testimony."
Keating questioned Singh later Tuesday, suggesting that it would have been more stressful for Singh to have testified truthfully in a criminal trial as a government witness than to have done so during a deposition in a private office for a lawsuit he'd filed over a money dispute.
While Singh insisted that both his Mangano trial testimony and his civil deposition testimony were truthful, he admitted that he didn't inform prosecutors about his civil deposition at first — calling it "an oversight."
Singh's deal with the government requires him not to lie on the witness stand. During the Mangano trial, the defense portrayed Singh as a liar who testified against the couple to win leniency before his future sentencing for crimes that include bribery, conspiracy and tax evasion.
Keating continued to attack Singh's credibility Tuesday. He got Singh to acknowledge that while he was banned from working in the restaurant industry under his bail conditions, he "may have" identified himself as a consultant for the Bethpage restaurant where his son works when arranging a deal for a piece of office equipment.
Singh also told Keating that when he made the "nothing to do with Oyster Bay" comment in his deposition, it was just poorly worded.
"I didn't mean that I didn't bribe Ed Mangano ... I was trying to tell him Ed Mangano was county executive. It came out wrong," Singh said.
Singh admitted he'd told federal officials later that his civil attorney had advised him to answer vaguely or indirectly if questioned during the deposition about the criminal matter.
"Which is different from what you said in this courtroom?" Keating asked, referring to the federal proceedings.
"I told the truth in this courtroom," Singh replied.
The witness also confirmed again Tuesday that he had bribed the then-county executive with a $454,000 "no-show job" for Linda Mangano, along with free vacations and meals, two luxury chairs, ash flooring for the bedroom of the couple’s Bethpage home and a $7,300 wristwatch for one of their sons.
The jury convicted Edward Mangano, now 59, of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Jurors found Linda Mangano, now 58, guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and two counts of lying to the FBI.
The retrial followed an initial mistrial in the couple’s case in May 2018, when a federal jury also acquitted former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto — who died last year — of corruption charges.
Azrack told lawyers for both sides to submit written arguments after Tuesday's hearing, giving a June 4 deadline for the final filing.