A federal judge Wednesday set June 3 for the start of the trial of former Nassau Deputy County Executive Rob Walker in connection with his receiving $5,000 in cash from a county contractor.
Walker, of Hicksville, the chief aide to former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, was charged in February of 2018 with obstructing justice and lying to FBI agents about his dealing with the unidentified contractor.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges which are unrelated to the corruption case in which Mangano was recently convicted. Walker theoretically faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, but would probably receive a much lower sentence under sentencing guidelines.
U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack in Central Islip also reserved decision on arguments made by Walker’s defense attorney and a federal prosecutor on whether to suppress the heart of the government’s case against the former official—incriminating remarks he supposedly made to both the unidentified contractor and to FBI agents.
Federal prosecutors have said in court papers that the unnamed contractor passed on the cash at an October 2014 Notre Dame football game in Indiana. The contractor had invited Walker to the game, prosecutors said.
When Walker learned that federal investigators were probing corruption in county contracts, including the possibility that Walker received the $5,000, prosecutors said, he spoke with the contractor “in an attempt to convince the contractor to conceal the existence of the $5,000 payment from the grand jury,” with “a false explanation” of “both the character of the payment and the reasons for the payment.” Walker also allegedly denied to agents that he had received money from the contractor.
Later, FBI agents were watching in a Hicksville park when Walker gave the contractor an envelope with $5,000 in cash, the prosecutors said. After Walker left, the contractor turned the $5,000 over to the agents.
Walker’s attorney Brian Griffin has said that his client had done nothing illegal and that the contractor was “a 20-plus year friend.” He has contended the money had no relationship to "any additional services for the county.” .
In seeking to suppress the alleged remarks Walker made to the contractor, Griffin argued Wednesday that the contractor had told federal investigators that he got nothing in return for the $5,000. Because of this, he argued, the government should not have had the contractor approach Walker to raise questions about the money.
Griffin also said that federal investigators should have known that he was representing Walker at the time, and should not have approached the county official without consulting him.
He said prosecutors knew of his relationship with Walker by numerous letters, phone calls and responses he had made to grand jury subpoenas in other older investigations into Walker.
But Eastern District federal prosecutor Artie McConnell responded that just because the contractor said he got nothing in return for the $5,000 did not mean the government didn’t have an obligation to look into the matter.
McConnell also said that investigators, who were handling the Walker case were not aware that Griffin was representing him at that time.
After the hearing, neither Walker, nor Griffin, of Garden City, nor federal prosecutors McConnell and Catherine Mirabile, would comment.
Before serving as Mangano’s deputy, Walker was a Republican assemblyman, deputy parks commissioner in the Town of Oyster Bay and assistant to then-Town Supervisor John Venditto.
His mother Rose Walker is a Nassau County legislator and was an Oyster Bay councilwoman.
Some of Walker’s family members have attempted to raise money for his legal defense. In an April, 2018 fundraising letter, they said: “As you may know the cost in preparing for a perspective trial is extremely pricey and honestly something we just don’t have.”
Walker is not the only political figure associated with Mangano who is involved in federal criminal cases. Last week, former Hempstead Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino, who was special counsel to Mangano, pleaded guilty to tax evasion.