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Corruption trial witness admits lying

Raj Batheja, the developer of Stoneridge Homes, a

Raj Batheja, the developer of Stoneridge Homes, a controversial building site in New Cassel, stands near the construction site and shows a Newsday reporter photos of work on the site and the site log. Neville Mullings, the executive director of the North Hempstead CDA, is right. (Jan. 24, 2007) Photo Credit: Newsday/Julia Gaines

A key witness in a corruption trial of four former government officials in Nassau Wednesday admitted that he lied twice to the jury in his previous testimony.

Acting Supreme Justice Alan Honorof urged that prosecutors bring perjury charges against the witness, developer Ranjan Batheja.

Batheja, who worked on a major redevelopment project in New Cassel, has pleaded guilty to bribery in the case. He has been cooperating with Nassau prosecutors.

One defense attorney, Michael Rosen of Manhattan, questioned Batheja about telling the jury on April 16 that he did not "knowingly" steal from a bank in a check-kiting scam in November 2007 to which he pleaded guilty.

Honorof asked Batheja if he had lied to the judge then or whether he lied to the jury last week. "Clearly, they're both not the truth," Honorof said.

Batheja said, "I mistakenly lied to the jury."

Rosen, the attorney for ex-Legis. Patrick Williams of Uniondale, then asked Batheja about his testimony that he did not "knowingly" commit crimes when he bribed a man who turned out to be an undercover officer in Brooklyn. He pleaded guilty in that case, too.

"It was an incorrect statement," Batheja said.

A spokesman for District Attorney Kathleen Rice Wednesday declined to comment on the judge's recommendation of perjury charges.

On trial with Williams are former Nassau Legis. Roger Corbin and Neville Mullings, the former director of the North Hempstead Community Development Agency, both of Westbury, and David Wasserman of Roslyn Heights, the town's former building and planning commissioner. Indicted in July 2010, the men are charged with conspiracy and grand larceny for allegedly steering work to Batheja for $400,000 in bribes.

Honorof, who has admonished Batheja for failing to answer questions, said Wednesday that he had prepared a contempt sanction against him.

Wednesday morning, when the jury and witness were not present, Honorof said Batheja "doesn't know how to tell the truth" and said his lies in his courtroom were "distasteful" to him. "The intensity and level of perjury is unfathomable to me," he said.

Honorof also said Batheja was in "flagrant" violation of his cooperation agreement with Nassau prosecutors, which requires he not commit any more crimes. "He deserves a harsh sentence commencing immediately," the judge said.

Assistant Nassau County District Attorney Teresa Corrigan said it was normal for witnesses to have "inconsistencies" in their testimony and that there were many documents to support Batheja's claims.

Later during the day, Honorof reminded jurors that if they decide a witness intentionally lies about one matter, "You may disregard that witness' entire testimony."

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