A federal judge set Sept. 17 for the start of the criminal trial of Rob Walker — who was chief deputy to former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano — in a hearing that took place in the same courtroom where his old boss is being tried on corruption charges.
U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack set the date in a brief hearing Wednesday minutes after the judge heard closing arguments in the trial of Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto.
That trial, now 10 weeks old, is expected to go to the jury in the federal District Court in Central Islip this week.
Walker, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents, did not cross paths Wednesday with Mangano, whom he also served as campaign manager. He sat in a side room until the former county executive left Azrack’s courtroom.
Azrack set June 27 as the date for the next status conference in Walker’s case. His attorney, Brian Griffin, said in court that pretrial discovery is continuing in the case.
Afterward, Walker declined to comment, as did Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Tierney, who is also one of the prosecutors in the Mangano trial.
Walker is a former state assemblyman from Hicksville. At the time of his arrest in February, prosecutors said the charges were the result of a continuing federal investigation into whether Nassau officials have taken bribes from county contractors and then were involved cover ups.
Walker had testified at the initial corruption trial of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos in the Southern District in Manhattan in 2015, saying federal authorities were probing whether political campaign contributors were getting preferences for county contracts.
In court papers, federal prosecutors said the Walker case involves a $5,000 cash payment by an unnamed contractor who allegedly gave it to him in October 2014 at a University of Notre Dame football game in Indiana. The contractor had invited Walker to the game.
The prosecutors said that when Walker learned the situation was under investigation he attempted have the contractor lie to a grand jury, gave false statements to the FBI about the circumstances, and returned the $5,000 to the contractor.
But the money’s return in a Hicksville Park was surveilled by FBI agents, who retrieved the cash, the prosecutors said.
The charges against Mangano include conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, honest services wire fraud and extortion. The Mangano case centers on the testimony of restaurateur Harendra Singh, who has said he received several Nassau County contracts and $20 million in indirect loan guarantees from the Town of Oyster Bay by bribing Mangano and Venditto.
They have both pleaded not guilty.