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Unsealed court transcripts depict the drama before Manganos' mistrial

Linda Mangano and her husband, former Nassau County

Linda Mangano and her husband, former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, outside federal court in Central Islip after a judge declared a mistrial in their first corruption trial on May 31. Credit: James Carbone

Federal prosecutors agreed in May to a mistrial in the corruption case against former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda, only after the presiding judge refused to excuse the jury foreman who defense attorneys said favored their case, according to a transcript of the previously sealed court proceedings.

The foreman, Marc Tambassopoulos of Hicksville, acknowledged outside the Central Islip courthouse after the mistrial that he was in favor of acquitting the Manganos on all counts. Tambassopoulos had asked U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack to excuse him from the jury on May 31 after saying he was clashing with fellow jurors, the transcript said.

But defense attorneys opposed the move.

“I think it is incredibly unfair to the defense to discharge this juror, who is clearly a defense juror,” Kevin Keating, Edward Mangano’s defense attorney, told the judge during a private conference.

Prosecutors pushed for replacing the foreman, who was juror No. 2, with an alternate, the transcript shows.

“So I think he wants out because he’s not being respected, his view isn’t being respected, in his view, in his mind," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz.  "... Maybe he is hijacking the deliberations because he is a cop and thinks he knows better. So I certainly think declaring a mistrial is inappropriate at this point.” 

The Manganos’ attorneys and federal prosecutors battled over the accuracy of the foreman’s account of the jury deliberations moments before the judge declared a mistrial. Newsday requested unsealing the hearing transcript to help understand what went on behind the scenes as the trial headed for a mistrial. Newsday also asked that the judge unseal the transcripts involving the dismissals of jurors and alternates during the entire trial.  Azrack unsealed them in August.

The transcripts revealed how other jurors and alternates successfully convinced the judge they should be released from jury duty and that dismissed jurors had different views of how the deliberations were playing out.

Early in the trial, an alternate juror said  “a majority of the jurors” had made up their mind that the defendants were not guilty. Another juror that was dismissed shortly before the mistrial declaration said deliberations were so rancorous that, “I’m sick. I can’t sit.”

Others on the panel had more mundane reasons for asking to be dismissed: financial difficulty or illness, according to the transcripts.

Mangano and his wife are facing a retrial on the same corruption charges; they were  supposed to go on trial  this week but a judge adjourned the new trial until January.

Edward Mangano faces seven felony counts, including federal program bribery, honest-services wire fraud, extortion and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Linda Mangano faces five felony counts, including conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI. The Manganos have pleaded not guilty.

The case centers on prosecutors’ allegations that Edward Mangano, in return for bribes that included a $450,000 no-show job for his wife, helped former restaurant mogul and political donor Harendra Singh get a number of Nassau County contracts, as well as $20 million in indirect loan guarantees from the Town of Oyster Bay.

Defense attorneys maintained that there was nothing illegal about Singh giving gifts to the Manganos, his longtime friends, and that in return the former county executive did nothing to break the law.

On May 31, defense attorneys maintained that Tambassopoulos’ account showed that some jurors were not deliberating with an open mind and not following the judge’s instructions.

John Carman, Linda Mangano’s attorney, suggested asking the foreman about juror hostilities.

“He seems to have developed some pretty strong opinions about what is going on in there, one of which is that the jurors are not following the court’s instructions, clearly,” Carman said, according to the transcript.

Keating said Tambassopoulos’  remarks called  for a mistrial, saying, “This is day nine of a clearly . . . broken-down deliberate process. Severely so. So I think we are beyond the point that a mistrial is warranted.”

But Treinis Gatz replied that there was no indication that Tambassopoulos was accurately reflecting what was going on during deliberations.

After the trial, five jurors told reporters that deliberations were amicable.

The mistrial came after a 12-week trial, including nine days of deliberations, and after the foreman sent out a note saying: “I can no longer carry out my duties as a juror. I wish to be excused.”

The foreman then was called twice into a closed-door interview by the judge, defense attorneys and federal prosecutors.

According to the transcript, Tambassopoulos said he wanted to be excused because he didn’t feel he could change the minds of people who disagreed with his assessment of the case and his knowledge of the law.

Tambassopoulos told the judge and lawyers: “I believe, through my own personal experiences, I have a certain understanding of like how certain laws should be taken care of, and I feel like no matter what I do in that room, like there’s certain people that just didn’t want to, you know, see things from different perspectives.”

When Azrack asked the foreman if some jurors “are not following my instruction to listen to each other and to deliberate with an open mind, “ Tambassopoulos replied, “I believe there is a certain amount of stigma in that room that is looking at the situation as guilty and need to be proved innocent, instead of the other way around. So I don’t feel comfortable,” the transcript said.

After Tambassopoulos left the room, prosecutors argued that the foreman may have not been representing the view of the rest of the panel.

“I don’t think that when a juror comes here complaining, that they are speaking for the panel," Treinis Gatz said. “They are speaking from their perspective and how they are viewing the way deliberations are going.”

The transcript shows Treinis Gatz then requested that instead of a mistrial that Tambassopoulos should be replaced with an alternate and that jury deliberations be continued.

But Keating said, “I think it is incredibly unfair to the defense to discharge this juror, who is clearly a defense juror.”

Azrack said she was not happy to hear about the perceived “hostilities and toxicity” in the jury room. However, she said she didn’t see “a basis to discharge” the foreman. She also offered to give the jurors some instructions that would involve jury conduct during deliberations, legal standards to determine the accuracy of evidence or how to reach a partial verdict.

But before Azrack could act on that, Treinis Gatz and the other federal prosecutors in the case, Catherine Mirabile and Raymond Tierney, left the room for a discussion. When they came back, Treinis Gatz told Azrack that the government was consenting to a mistrial, according to the transcript.

“I think, based on the court’s ruling and this juror’s answers given to this particular line of questioning, that we consent to the mistrial,” Treinis Gatz said.

 A judge is required to get the opinions of both defense attorneys and prosecutors before deciding on a mistrial to understand the perspectives of both sides, according to federal rules. But the ultimate decision is up to the judge, subject to possible appellate review.

After Azrack declared a mistrial, prosecutors announced immediately they planned to retry the Manganos on all the charges.

Tambassopoulos subsequently told reporters he thought the Manganos were not guilty and that there was “overwhelmingly” sentiment among the jurors to acquit Linda Mangano on all charges, but “more split” on a not-guilty verdict for Edward Mangano. Other jurors declined to speak immediately after the mistrial.

Jurors interviewed days later by Newsday reporters said the jury was 11-1 in favor of convicting Edward Mangano on one felony charge. Five jurors denied that the deliberations had become “toxic” with “name-calling” and “cursing,” as Keating had said — apparently based on  the note from a juror who was replaced  by an alternate after she called Azrack. She had complained about her health being affected by the tension inside the jury deliberations room shortly before the mistrial was declared.

“He  didn’t ask the group,” said one juror, referring to the foreman's note that he wanted to be excused because he was clashing with other jurors.

The juror, a manager of a car-rental company from Queens who asked not to be identified by name, recalled the foreman “just took it upon himself to do that. We said, ‘Hold on, don’t send that note  yet.’ But he got up and just did it.”

Keating and John Carman, Linda Mangano’s attorney, declined to comment for this story.

John Marzulli, spokesman for the Eastern District prosecutors, also declined to comment.