Despite a late turnover of text messages recovered from the star witness against former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, a federal judge said Thursday the corruption trial is on schedule to begin next week.
Jury selection will take a day to complete on Monday and opening statements will be Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack said.
Testimony is scheduled to begin Wednesday, most likely with the key witness in the case, restaurateur Harendra Singh, who has pleaded guilty to bribing Mangano and Venditto.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz said she expected Singh to be on the stand for two days on direct examination, before the defense cross-examines him the following week.
Mangano has been charged with conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and extortion. His wife, Linda, has been charged with making false statements, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Venditto is charged with conspiracy, bribery, securities fraud, wire fraud, making false statements and obstruction of justice.
All three have pleaded not guilty and will stand trial together.
Azrack and attorneys in the case avoided a last-minute hitch when prosecutors Wednesday night belatedly turned over to the defense 7,000 pages of text messages extracted from Singh’s phone two years ago. Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, said he needed time to review them.
“We have to go through them, your honor,” he said.
Azrack appeared annoyed with prosecutors about the potential delay — and with defense lawyers for not raising the issue sooner. “Why would you even wait so long?” she asked Gatz.
“It just got lost in the shuffle,” the prosecutor said, acknowledging it was a “large document” and that defense lawyers ought to have a chance to review it all before they question Singh.
But after Azrack reviewed the schedule with lawyers, she said, “Nobody’s going to be crossing Mr. Singh until the 19th of March.” That should give the defense attorneys enough time to review the records, she said.
Lawyers on both sides declined to comment afterward.
Late Wednesday, Azrack ruled lawyers on both sides are entitled to know about verbal communication between Oyster Bay attorneys and town officials. The judge had earlier ruled that trial lawyers should have access to written communication, but she expanded the ruling in response to a letter from prosecutors.
Azrack had two lawyers who represent the town in court, prepared to question them about their communication with town officials, until Venditto’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, suggested that wasn’t necessary yet.
He said he was not committed to a defense that relies on claiming that Venditto violated securities laws by relying on legal advice he got, and would not say that in his opening statement. He said he will wait to see how town officials testify before deciding whether to use such a defense to those charges.
Therefore, he said there was no rush to resolve the issue now, he told Azrack. “It could be several weeks before we get to this,” he said.
Azrack said she would rule on the issue later.