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Power on Trial: Venditto says he had faith in justice system

John Venditto outside federal court in Central Islip

John Venditto outside federal court in Central Islip on Thursday after he was found not guilty on all charges. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Not guilty

John Venditto, newly acquitted on all counts, gathered with his family and his attorneys in a small conference room just outside the courtroom on Thursday.

It sounded like a celebration.

Afterward, Venditto told Newsday, “From the very first day I started in law school, I have had nothing but faith in our justice system and the events of today confirm that faith.”

For most of the trial, Venditto’s face showed little emotion.

That went away as he joined his family in the courtroom after jurors rendered a partial verdict — before returning to continue deliberations on federal charges against Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, and Linda Mangano, his wife.

After leaving the conference room, Venditto and his attorney, Marc Agnifilo, paused — for a few moments — to talk.

“I’m relieved that I am not miserable,” said Agnifilo, who earlier in the morning showed a reporter a phone video of his family, on horseback, riding in Barbados, with surf in the background.

As for Venditto, he said, “It is a great day for him, for his family and for the justice system.”

As the two talked, Venditto’s family made their way — for the last time in almost 11 weeks — down the hall toward the elevators.

As the jury foreman read out “not guilty” on each count, Venditto’s son Michael, a former state senator, raised an index finger to the sky, in prayer and in gratitude to God.

That finger stayed up, even after a court official, kindly, asked him to put it down.

To Michael Venditto’s left, his mother, Christine, began to cry.

At one point, a Linda Mangano supporter left the courtroom and returned with tissues.

At another, Michael Venditto put his arm around his mother to comfort her.

At the defendants’ table, meanwhile, Venditto, as he has for almost two months, maintained a poker face.

After the foreman finished reading out all counts, Agnifilo asked Judge Joan M. Azrack for a bench conference.

The white noise machine went on, as some jurors talked to each other and shared smiles.

Afterward, the jury foreman rose again to add two more “not guilty” verdicts to the record, after the judge and attorneys discovered that two pages in the verdict sheet were missing.

It seems that they got left behind during the copying.

As the family walked toward the elevators, Michael Venditto said the family’s faith in God, and in the innocence of John Venditto, had never wavered.

“It was in God’s hands,” he said.

For a time, the family moved ahead of Venditto, who, after talking to Newsday, said he had go catch up.

“I’m in the custody of my wife now,” he said, smiling.

About Singh

Anthony La Pinta, the attorney for Harendra Singh, was in the courtroom as the jury began its fifth day of deliberations.

Singh, who was the prosecution’s first witness, still is awaiting sentencing on bribery and other charges.

He will be sentenced by Judge Azrack, who is handling the Mangano/Venditto case.

La Pinta was asked about Singh, who is on home detention.

Singh also has filed for bankruptcy.

“He’s doing well,” La Pinta said.

The note

“We have come to a unanimous decision on one defendant,” read the first note sent to the court by jurors on Thursday, the penultimate day of the 11th week of the trial. “And we are split on the other two.”

Early afternoon, Venditto learned that he was that “one defendant.”

After his acquittal, Azrack told Venditto, “You are excused.”

Edward Mangano, Linda Mangano, their family — including Edward Mangano’s parents and one of his sons — and supporters shook hands with Venditto.

Some hugged him.

After Venditto left the courtroom for a side conference room, Edward and Linda Mangano remained.

But not for long.

Following the lead of Edward Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating, the pair left the courtroom for lunch in the first-floor cafeteria.

By 3 p.m., they were back in the courtroom. And shortly before 5 p.m. the jury sent out its last note of the day.

They asked for more evidence, which was to be delivered to them Friday, when for the Manganos the wait will continue.

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