The U.S. Attorney’s Office will once again prosecute former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda, on all the counts they faced in the proceeding that ended Thursday in a mistrial, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Besides that statement, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Richard Donoghue didn’t comment further on the case. But defense attorneys for the Manganos have said prosecutors should take a careful look at the first trial’s outcome before deciding to prosecute their clients again.
A retrial would allow attorneys on both sides to tweak their presentations and try to exploit any weaknesses in the opposition’s approach, legal experts said Friday. The first trial lasted 12 weeks, including nine days of jury deliberations.
The former county executive faces accusations that include bribery, extortion and conspiracy. Prosecutors claim Edward Mangano steered two county contracts to restaurateur Harendra Singh for bribes that included a $450,000 no-show job for his wife, and also pressured former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto to secure for Singh more than $20 million in town-guaranteed loans.
Linda Mangano faces charges that include lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice in connection with her employment with Singh. The couple maintains their innocence. The same jury U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack dismissed Thursday, declaring a mistrial a day after they reported a deadlock, had acquitted Venditto of all 27 criminal charges against him a week earlier.
Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School, said Friday it will be interesting to see how the government changes its case, perhaps by potentially streamlining it or emphasizing different points.
“Sometimes there are juries that just can’t reach a verdict because of the personalities that are on the jury. But this jury did reach a verdict against one of the defendants, so it wasn’t that they couldn’t get along well enough to get through the evidence and make decisions. They could, it’s just that they weren’t convinced enough by what the government did,” said Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
Rodgers said she believes — along with some other attorneys familiar with federal law — that a retrial usually favors the government, because the first time around, prosecutors often don’t have a great sense of what the defense is going to be because the defense doesn’t have the same discovery obligations to hand over evidence before a trial.
“The prosecutors can strip down the case to fundamentals ... eliminate background noise … get lean,” said James Walden, a New York City white-collar defense attorney and former Eastern District prosecutor, speaking in general about retrials.
Andrew Frisch, another New York City defense attorney who also is a former Eastern District federal prosecutor, agreed, adding the prosecutors can now gauge which witnesses to recall or eliminate or how to re-tailor their questions to witnesses.
Both sides can benefit from speaking to jurors from the first trial and potentially adjusting their arguments based on feedback, Rodgers said.
The second time around, the defense will try to figure out what confused jurors and try to enhance those confusions that the government wants to get rid of, she said.
Both Rodgers and Michael Elbert, a former Bronx prosecutor and the immediate past president of the Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County, said a retrial can give the defense a chance to try to discredit prosecution witnesses by pointing out any differences between that person’s sworn testimony in the first and second trials.
Elbert, a criminal defense attorney based in Melville, said Friday he believes the defense has the advantage at a retrial for that reason.
“The more times a witness has to testify, the more he’s prone to more effective cross-examination from the defense . . . Any time a person tells a story, the more times they tell it, the more likelihood there is that they’re going to make some sort of mistake or there will be some type of discrepancy that the defense can exploit,” he said.
Elbert also said the amount of publicity from the Manganos’ first trial also could complicate jury selection in a retrial. “They’ve heard so much about the case, and now on top of that, they’ve heard that the prior jury had so much trouble coming to a decision,” he said of potential new jurors.
Maurice Sercarz, a New York City defense attorney, also thinks the defense usually has the advantage in a case like that of the Manganos, where the defense did not put up any witnesses and the defense has extensive transcripts of the remarks of government witnesses to pick apart.
Kevin Keating, Edward Mangano’s Garden City-based attorney, said Thursday that jurors had “listened closely to all the evidence, deliberated for nine days, and they were not close to convicting” after a three-month trial.
“So that’s the type of thing that the government should look at very carefully,” he added, when asked about a potential retrial.
John Carman, Linda Mangano’s attorney, said Friday the U.S. Attorney’s Office has to do “an honest assessment of why the jury was so skeptical of the government’s case.”