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Power on Trial: Genova, Savino return to the stand

Town of Oyster Bay Attorney Leonard Genova at

Town of Oyster Bay Attorney Leonard Genova at a board meeting on May 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Not on Saturday

Kevin Keating, in continuing his cross-examination of William Savino, an attorney at the law firm Rivkin Radler — where Keating’s client, former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano once worked — asked about Savino’s relationship with several elected officials.

At one point, he asked Savino about John Venditto, the former Oyster Bay Town supervisor who was acquitted of all charges during the first trial.

“I mean, I didn’t go to the movies with him on Saturday night,” Savino said, “but I saw him.”

And that person was ...

During the first trial — and in papers filed before the start of the retrial — Keating suggested that notes Savino made could have come from a conversation he had with someone other than Mangano.

In the first trial, Keating suggested Savino could have been speaking with Leonard Genova, Oyster Bay’s former town attorney and deputy town supervisor, instead.

On Wednesday, Savino repeated — as he did during the first trial — that he believed notes he took of a phone conversation about arranging Oyster Bay Town-backed loans for businessman Harendra Singh were from a conversation with Mangano.

As Keating took Savino through the document on Wednesday, Keating referred only to:

“The person in the conversation …”

“The person you were speaking to ...”

Or “the person you are speaking with …”

On redirect, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile returned to Keating’s use of the phrase “the person” by asking Savino, “Who was the person you were speaking too?”

“Mr. Mangano,” Savino answered.

Mentioning Mei

Frederick Mei, a former deputy Oyster Bay Town attorney who testified during the first trial, has not been called this time around.

But that doesn’t mean jurors are not hearing his name.

Mei pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and is awaiting sentencing.

On Wednesday, his name came up, once again, in a series of emails both sides used as exhibits.

At one point, the court reporter asked about a misspelling in an exhibit.

“Do I use the “May” in the documents?” he asked.

“It’s M-E-I,” the judge answered.

Are we there yet?

“We are almost done, sir,” Keating told Savino at one point Wednesday morning.

“Thank you,” Savino answered.

After more questions, Keating told Savino that he had only a couple of questions left.

“You have said that, like, four times,” Savino said, as the courtroom broke into laughter.

“Sorry, judge, sorry,” Savino said.

Keating was not amused.

Several minutes later, Keating said, “Just one more.”

And the jury, once more, broke into laughter.

“I’ve done the same thing Mr. Keating has,” Savino said.

“I’m sure you have,” U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack said.

Win or lose

“Do you agree with me that good lawyers sometimes lose motions?” Keating asked.

“They may lose motions,” Savino replied, smoothly, with a glance toward the jury. “But they never lose their confidence.”

The room again broke into laughter.

Keating, again, was not amused.

Succession interrupted

Leonard Genova, who is testifying under a grant of immunity, was the day’s second witness.

In introducing himself, under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz, he told jurors about his career, and about how he functioned as the town’s deputy supervisor and town attorney — at the same time.

“Was there a reason for that?” Treinis Gatz asked.

“To consolidate power,” Genova responded, “and also as part of a proposed succession plan.”

“A succession plan for when John Venditto retired?” Treinis Gatz asked. “That would be a landing pad for you to be the next supervisor of Oyster Bay?”

“Yes,” Genova answered.

Several minutes later, however, Genova would be telling jurors about his decision to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2015.

“I knew my career was in a shambles,” he said.

Leading the way

Treinis Gatz, in leading Genova through all things Oyster Bay, at one point spurred Keating to rise for an objection.

“At this point,” he said, “I would have to ask for the leading to stop.”

“I was waiting,” Azrack said, before sustaining Keating’s objection.

Speed trap

At one point, Azrack interrupted the back and forth to ask, “Can you speak a little slower?”

She made the request of both Treinis Gatz and Genova — both whom speak rapidly enough to make note-taking a challenge.

Both agreed.

And across the room from the witness stand, one juror gave Azrack’s request a thumbs-up.

Accumulating chits

Jurors got a lesson in Oyster Bay geography, governance and politics as Treinis Gatz had Genova break things down.

At one point, in describing Venditto’s expertise in politics, Genova said, “He was a very smart politician, he would do things for people so that, in return, they would owe him some chits.”

'Game of favors'

During the last trial, Genova testified that Edward Mangano had attended a meeting with Venditto and other officials about getting Singh help for his loans. And he also testified that Mangano had talked to Venditto about the subject.

During Wednesday’s testimony, however, Genova attempted to tie Mangano more firmly to Oyster Bay’s efforts to help Singh, speaking at one point about “multiple conversations” between Venditto and Mangano about “getting it done” for the former restaurateur.

“Politics is a game of favors,” Genova testified.

Why did Venditto want to help Singh?

“It wasn’t about what he could get from Mr. Singh,” Genova testified, “it was about what he could get from Mr. Mangano.”

Later, Genova described for jurors a conversation he overheard wherein Venditto and Mangano — after the April 2010 meeting on Singh’s loans — were talking about potential hires and promotions for members of the local Republican Club.

“It was obviously an opportune time for John Venditto to ask Edward Mangano for things that were important to him,” Genova said.

Bid steering

Keating, in his cross of Genova, asked at one point about bids for town business that were “rigged” for Singh.

“I don’t know if I would use that term,” Genova said.

His preferred term was “steered.”

“It is just a different term that was used,” Genova said.

“They were steered,” Keating went on, patiently, “meaning they were rigged.”

“If you want to use that terminology…” Genova replied, “I just don’t want to use that terminology.”

Standing up for Oyster Bay

“Al D’Amato was a lobbyist,” Keating said, for a megamall that at one time had been proposed for the old Cerro Wire property.

The lawyer used the project to solicit testimony from Genova on Venditto’s political popularity — and fortitude — in standing up for the wishes of town residents.

The megamall was supported by unions, Genova said.

And by D’Amato, Keating said.

“Al D’Amato became a lobbyist” for the megamall, Keating said. “I think this building is named after him.”

“I think it is,” Genova said — from a witness stand on the ninth floor of the Alfonse M. D’Amato federal courthouse in Central Islip.

“Al D’Amato is a pretty powerful force,” Keating continued, before asking Genova whether he knew about a discussion between Venditto and D’Amato that had “devolved into a screaming match.”

Genova said, no, he hadn’t heard that one.

“Al D’Amato wanted the town to approve . . . [the] mall?” Keating asked.

“Yes,” Genova said.

“John Venditto stood up to Al D’Amato,” Keating said, before reading a portion of a statement he said Genova made earlier to the government.

In the statement, as rendered by Keating, Genova quoted Venditto as telling former Sen. D’Amato, “If I was in a bar right now, I’d punch you in the face.”

“John Venditto said no” to the megamall project, Keating repeated a few minutes later.

“Yes,” Genova said.

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