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Power on Trial: Jury selection, interrupted

Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is seen

Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano is seen Wednesday outside federal court in Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Jury Selection, Interrupted

The first indication that something was up came from an unusual place: the sidewalk across the road from the Alfonse M. D’Amato federal courthouse in Central Islip.

It was 9:20 a.m. Tuesday.

And Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, and his wife, Linda, had not yet been seen arriving at the courthouse for the start screening of potential jurors — which had been slated to begin at 9:30 a.m.

Inside, Kevin Keating, Edward Mangano’s attorney, waited in the courthouse cafeteria, where, soon he would be joined by Edward Mangano’s parents and other supporters, along with other attorneys working on the case.

The Manganos themselves, who are facing a retrial on federal corruption charges, didn’t arrive in the cafeteria until after 10 a.m. By then, it was becoming clear that the day — and jury selection — was not going to go on as scheduled.

There were smiles, and a few hugs and handshakes.

But the mood seemed a mix of somber anticipation — and more of the anger that had bubbled up during a pretrial hearing last Wednesday  at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

By 10:30 a.m., the Manganos and their attorneys were in U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack’s courtroom on the ninth floor, milling about.

Then the prosecution team filed in.

All were asked by Azrack’s assistant to sit near microphones by their respective tables so the judge, who was conducting the proceeding via telephone, could hear.

By 10:38, after all sides agreed that more time was needed because of new material turned over to the defense, the proceeding ended.

The retrial of Edward and Linda Mangano, which had been anticipated to stretch past Election Day and into Thanksgiving, was off — until after the start of a brand-new year.

The Brady Bunch

No one said anything during Tuesday’s court hearing about the nature of the material prosecutors had turned over to the defense. Thus, there was no way for observers to determine whether the material was covered under the Brady rule, which generally requires prosecutors in criminal cases to disclose evidence helpful to the defense. There was no way for observers to determine whether the new material had any relevant value at all.

But in pretrial motions — and during, at times, vociferous arguments during last week’s pretrial hearing in Brooklyn — Keating pressed prosecutors about handing over potential Brady information.

“The court is aware that we have had concerns in this case for some time about the failure to disclose Brady material,” Keating said during the Brooklyn hearing. “ . . . Our concern is not personal, this isn’t personal.”

Keating went on to enumerate material he had received from prosecutors after Edward Mangano’s first trial had ended in a mistrial.

Keating said he had requested and received material from a hard drive seized from the offices of Harendra Singh, a former restaurateur and close friend of the Mangano family, who has pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges.

Singh, a key government witness, had testified against both Edward and Linda Mangano the first time around.

Keating said he also had received additional recordings of Singh from a body wire worn by one of his employees. “It’s impeachment material,” Keating said. He then went on to ask whether “there are more wiretap recordings that weren’t disclosed?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz, at that Brooklyn hearing, answered for the government, pushing back hard against Keating’s implication that the government was holding back information.

“Since the last trial, because of the allegations — the non-personal allegations made by counsel against the government — we have spent a significant amount of time going through . . . [statements] of people we did not intend to call at the trial and whose, we think, statements are totally irrelevant to this trial,” she told Azrack.

“But if they mentioned Harendra Singh we turned them over to the defense,” she said. “We have spent hours doing this . . . we have turned over all of the recordings that we have, Your Honor, all of them . . . we’re not qualifying this.”

“ . . . If you are representing to the court that you are turning over every recording,” Azrack said, “I am satisfied with that.”

“Yes, we have and we will check again,” Gatz said.

Hugs, Not Tears

After the phone call with the judge ended Tuesday, Linda and Edward Mangano rose from their seats.

They hugged each other and their supporters, smiling as they walked from the courtroom. That was in stark contrast to how the pair left the courthouse during last week’s  hearing in Brooklyn.

At one point during that hearing, Keating noted that among the materials he had received from prosecutors after the first trial was a statement from one of Singh’s friends, Kamlesh Mehta.

“Singh used to complain to Mehta that Ed Mangano did nothing for him,” Keating said. “In fact, Kamlesh Mehta said . . . that Singh used to write a zero on his hand, you know, with his finger, a zero, Ed Mangano did nothing . . . It wasn’t turned over in the first trial, three-month trial.”

Pointing to Edward Mangano, Keating continued, “He might not have been sitting here if that was turned over.”

After that proceeding had ended, Linda Mangano began to cry and shake as she walked out of the courtroom. In the hallway outside, she was surrounded by friends.

At one point, Edward Mangano joined her.

His face was ashen, his eyes brimmed with tears.

The pair declined to talk to reporters that day in Brooklyn — and again, yesterday, in Central Islip.

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