It was 12:05 p.m. Monday when U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack entered the courtroom — three hours and five minutes after the scheduled start time.
She was there, again, at the start of the 10th week of the trial of Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, Linda Mangano, his wife, and John Venditto, Oyster Bay’s former town supervisor.
Prosecutors, lawyers, defendants and “the regulars” — the spectators who are at the trial frequently — were seated at 9 a.m. While the judge didn’t make an appearance until later, it was clear that work was being done. Her clerk had been in the courtroom from time to time with stacks of papers that then would be carefully reviewed by all sides.
In addition, prosecutors and defense attorneys occasionally would confer with each other, as the prosecutors and the defense hammered down the specifics of a jury charge — the instructions Azrack will give jurors before they begin deliberations.
At 12:32 p.m., the jury filed in.
“Good morning, good morning,” Azrack, as she usually does, said as jurors walked in to take their seats. “Thank you for your patience.”
At which point a juror — to the surprise of spectators — piped up, “Check your watch, is it morning or afternoon?”
“Time flies,” Azrack replied calmly.
At this point in the trial, and out of the presence of the jury, defense attorneys argue what are known as Rule 29 motions, or motions to dismiss.
On Monday, attorneys for the defendants made such arguments.
Prosecutors, in turn, responded.
And Azrack, who by law at this point is to consider trial evidence in a light most favorable to prosecutors, interjected with whatever questions she had.
After arguments had ended, Azrack, praising prosecutors and defense lawyers for their efforts, denied all the defense motions.
“There is more than sufficient evidence for this case to go to the jury on all counts,” she said.
For the first time in 10 weeks — and out of earshot of the jury — each defendant had the opportunity to address the judge.
That came after Azrack denied all motions to dismiss.
At that point, she informed Edward Mangano that he had the constitutional right to testify at trial on his own behalf and asked if he wished to do so.
“No, your honor,” Mangano answered.
She asked the same of Linda Mangano, who was seated to her husband’s right.
“No, your honor,” she replied.
Then she asked Venditto, the only defendant who stood as she made the query.
“No, your honor,” Venditto said.
“Bill Savino was freaking out,” Kevin Keating, attorney for Edward Mangano told Azrack at one point, during his arguments.
How was Savino freaking out? Azrack asked, referring to William Savino, a partner in the Rivkin Radler law firm who had testified earlier in the trial.
“Bill Savino freaked out with his hands,” Keating answered. “He was gesticulating, you, you, you.”
Last month, Savino testified that he had no recollection of talking to Mangano about a loan to former restaurateur Harendra Singh.
And under cross examination from Keating, Savino denied emphatically that Mangano would have pressured him to take a particular position on whether the town should back loans for Singh, then the town concessionaire.
“He couldn’t” do that, Savino testified. “You couldn’t. You couldn’t,” he said turning to address the judge. After turning to face jurors, Savino continued, “They couldn’t. No one could.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine M. Mirabile, in her counter argument to Keating Monday, said plentiful evidence had been presented for the counts to go on for jury consideration.
As for the Oyster Bay loans, she told Azrack, “Edward Mangano reached out to Bill Savino . . . and Edward Mangano knows the details of what needed to be done.”
The low-show must go on
“Linda Mangano concedes . . . that she had a low-show job,” John Carman, her attorney, told Azrack Monday, referring to the more than $400,000 she earned while on Singh’s payroll.
“As to whether she made false statements,” Carman went on, evidence presented at trial is “legally insufficient.”
Linda Mangano is charged with making false statements to FBI agents and prosecutors during interviews.
“They are statements,” Carman argued. “They just aren’t Linda’s.”
In her argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz told Azrack that evidence against Linda Mangano presented during the trial was plentiful.
“Linda Mangano lied,” she said, “Repeatedly, regularly and easily.”
Quid pro no
“What did John Venditto get?” his attorney, Marc Agnifilo, asked Azrack, arguing that there was no quid quo pro between Venditto and Singh. “And if he got it, we have to ask, did he get it with a corrupt heart?” Agnifilo said.
At one point, Agnifilo addressed the limousine rides Venditto and members of his family are alleged to have taken at Singh’s expense.
Agnifilo repeated — as he has throughout the trial — that Venditto believed he was paying for the rides when he gave drivers cash.
To believe otherwise, Agnifilo argued, was to believe Venditto was getting into a car and thinking “I’m corrupting myself.”
“It is preposterous,” the lawyer said.
Treinis Gatz said the evidence of a crime is that so many Oyster Bay Town officials helped Singh get town-backed financing.
Those officials, she argued, acted at the direction of Venditto, who, in turn, was being pressured by Mangano.
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