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Power on Trial: When jurors disagree

John Venditto, left, with attorneys Joshua Kirshner and

John Venditto, left, with attorneys Joshua Kirshner and John Carman, and, at right, Edward and Linda Mangano on Monday in court in Central Islip. Credit: Aggie Kenny

When Worlds Collide, I

As jurors resumed deliberations Tuesday morning, prosecutors and defense attorneys gathered before U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack to discuss how to address a note the panel sent out a day earlier. The jurors in the corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto and Mangano’s wife, Linda, had said they could not reach “an agreement on certain items.”

All sides — with John Carman, Linda Mangano’s attorney, joining in via cellphone — agreed to let jurors continue their work.

There’s the possibility jurors again will send a note expressing concern about a lack of agreement on an issue. If that were to occur, Azrack and the attorneys agreed she would read a portion of the charge federal Judge Valerie Caproni used in the trial of Joseph Percoco, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, when jurors expressed similar concerns.

“It is normal, and even common, for jurors to have differences of opinion,” Caproni told jurors in that case. She continued, “ . . . Further consideration may indicate that a change in original view is justified.”

Before reaching agreement that Azrack would address jurors with a portion of Caproni’s charge, defense attorneys, along with their clients, met privately (adding Carman via telephone) in a courtroom conference room.

At noon, jurors sent out their first note.

And it had nothing to do with Monday’s note.

Instead, jurors asked for transcribed testimony from two more witnesses, Butch Yamali, owner of the Dover Group, and Chris Seidl, the firm’s executive chef.

Both testified that they believed that the firm would get a contract to handle food service at Nassau’s emergency operations center after superstorm Sandy. The contract, instead, according to trial testimony, went to former restaurateur Harendra Singh.

Azrack, after reading the note aloud in court, said of jurors, “It looks like they’re working.”

Ultimately, Azrack did call jurors back into the room and read to them from the Caproni charge, after which they returned to deliberations.

Just before 5 p.m., they were dismissed from the jury room — which means the waiting game begins again Wednesday morning.

Take a walk

It’s been a slo-o-o-o-w wait, with lawyers, defendants and spectators alternating between waiting in the cool courtroom and in the warmer hallway outside.

At 11:08 a.m. Tuesday, Marc Agnifilo, Venditto’s attorney, made such a move.

“I can’t take it anymore,” he quipped.

Meanwhile, there’s been a steady stream of visitors, curious about the case, who fling open the doors to the almost empty courtroom only to leave seconds later.

“Nothing’s going on,” one visitor called out to another, who turned around for the long walk back to the elevators.

Later, a woman visitor got lucky.

She was in the courtroom when Azrack read aloud a note from the jury. The judge also noted that lunch for jurors was about to be delivered.

“How long is lunch, a half-hour?” the visitor asked reporters, sitting on benches and typing on laptops outside the courtroom.

“There’s no lunch,” a reporter responded.

“What does that mean?” the woman pressed.

“The jury eats and talks at the same time,” a reporter responded.

“Oh,” the woman replied, before walking away.

When Worlds Collide, II

A Newsday report notes Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino’s comment in a radio interview that he wants to replace long-serving elected town officials with new ones.

In a prerecorded interview broadcast Monday on LIU Post’s WCWP radio show “North Shore Now,” Saladino told host Jason Samel that his administration had broken with predecessor John Venditto by bringing in fresh blood.

“I was able to get some of the people to retire so we ran brand-new people for the Town Board and as we go forward I will be looking to continue to replace our elected officials with new people that have nothing to do with the past,” Saladino said.

Elected officials aside, there have been plentiful vacancies.

Venditto stepped down after he was indicted.

The town’s former deputy supervisor, Leonard Genova, and former deputy town attorney, Frederick Mei, are prosecution witnesses against Venditto.

During the trial, jurors also saw photographs and heard testimony involving multiple other town officials, most of whom no longer work for the town.

Among them were: Frederick Ippolito, former commissioner of planning and economic development, whose conviction on federal income-related charges, was vacated after he died in prison; Richard Porcelli, Venditto’s former campaign manager; and Frank Nocerino, former public safety deputy commissioner. He and Nocerino have pleaded not guilty to state corruption-related charges.

There also was Richard Betz, former town public works commissioner; Leonard Kunzig, a former town board member and town comptroller; and Kevin Conologue, former deputy parks commissioner.

In addition, there was testimony by former concessionaire Singh that two incumbent town board members — Joseph Muscarella and Anthony Macagnone — received reduced-rate weddings at Singh-operated facilities. Both have denied any impropriety.

When Worlds Collide, III

In April, Macagnone proposed 12-year term limits for all town elective offices, to the surprise of some town officials. Macagnone put forth another proposal to prohibit commissioners and deputy commissioners from serving in leadership roles in political organizations.

Neither was seconded.

That came as no real surprise given that the GOP retains full control over the town.

During the trial, there was plentiful testimony about how politics and governing are entwined in Oyster Bay and Nassau County.

After Venditto resigned, Republican Party leaders appointed Saladino to take his place.

There also was testimony about how the town attorney who replaced Genova, who received full immunity for his testimony against Venditto and Edward Mangano, was put into place by Nassau GOP leader Joseph Mondello. After decades running the county party, Mondello stepped down recently after President Donald Trump nominated him as U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.

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