The Second Time Around
To be honest, there seemed to be some sense of fatigue as Courtroom 920 began to fill for the retrial of Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, and Linda Mangano, his wife.
The defendants, back in the chairs at the defense table they had occupied during the last weeks of the Mangano’s first trial, appeared to be more tired than nervous.
The prosecutors, as always, were businesslike.
And out in the audience, there were some slow eye rolls and a few grumbles at the prospect of six or more weeks of sitting in the same Central Islip courtroom, hearing the same witnesses, presenting the same evidence.
The courtroom never filled, even as opening statements began.
There were few reporters. And even fewer court buffs, that is, the usually eager spectators who love trials.
The proceedings were delayed for about a half-hour, because some jurors — arriving via public transportation, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack told the courtroom at one point — got to the building after 9:30 a.m.
It was 10:03 a.m., when the judge returned to the bench to cheerfully tell those gathered, “OK, everyone’s here!”
A few minutes later, the jury walked in.
And, with that, the fog of trial fatigue — for now, at least — lifted.
For the prosecution
Lara Treinis Gatz, as she did during Mangano’s first trial, delivered the prosecution’s opening salvo.
Last time, Gatz hammered hard on the idea of quid pro quo — “this for that,” as she said repeatedly — in detailing the prosecution’s assertion that Mangano used his position to help former friend and restaurant mogul Harendra Singh in exchange for meals, Mangano family vacations and other expensive gifts.
On Tuesday, Gatz took a different tack.
“Corruption matters,” she told jurors, again and again and again, as she enumerated the government’s allegations against the Manganos.
Her second mantra, this time around, was “Dates matter.”
“Timing is significant,” she told jurors, “because it tells the story.”
Mangano and Singh had been friends for decades before Mangano was elected county executive, Gatz went on, mining an argument Mangano’s defense attorney made during the first trial in an attempt to turn it to the prosecution’s advantage.
Once Mangano became Nassau’s top elected official, she said, Singh was at the ready — with almost a half-million dollars over four years in gifts and a no-show job for Linda Mangano.
Singh wanted to “put Edward Mangano on retainer,” Gatz said, “and he gladly accepted the assignment because the pay was really good.”
As for that friendship, she said, “This is a case about corruption, it is not a case about gifts and friendship.”
On a mission
Gatz also hit hard at the Manganos.
Several times, in making the prosecution’s case, she pointed across the courtroom to Edward Mangano, calling him “that man.”
“Everybody made out like bandits,” she said at one point, referencing Mangano’s alleged actions, “except the taxpayers.”
Mangano showed little visible reaction.
But Linda Mangano did.
At one point, her cheeks turned fiery red, after Gatz referenced Mangano while detailing allegations of an attempted cover up after the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked about her no-show job she got from Singh.
“She made it her absolute mission to lie,” Gatz said.
At another point, Linda Mangano wiped tears from her cheeks.
For the defense
Kevin Keating, Edward Mangano’s defense attorney, strolled slowly to a small lectern in front of the jury box.
“That was quite an opening statement, wasn’t it?” he said, looking over the panel.
And with that, he followed up with a mantra of his own:
“You didn’t hear that in the opening statement” or “you didn’t hear any of this in their opening statement,” he would say several times, as he detailed everything from the relationship between Mangano and Singh, and Singh’s crimes.
He swatted against the prosecution’s assertion that Mangano had influence over decisions made by Town of Oyster Bay officials — who went through extraordinary measures to help Singh with loans, contract extensions and other benefits, even as the restaurateur fell on hard times.
“They would jump somersaults for him,” Keating said.
What you are going to hear about Oyster Bay, Keating added, “will knock your socks off.”
Friend or foe
Keating tried to counter prosecution’s assertions that Mangano was an equal in a quid pro quo relationship with Singh — saying that Mangano was among a host of other prominent officials duped into believing that Singh was a good man.
At more than one point, Keating voiced what he said he believed were Singh’s views once Mangano was elected to office: “I’ve got a big ship, but my ship is really going to come in now, I’ve got Ed.”
Singh then viewed Mangano as an opportunity to advance his businesses, Keating said.
“Once he saw a target, he would throw things at him,” Keating said.
But, Keating went on, Singh “miscalculated because that is not who [Mangano] is.”
For the defense II
With his opening, John Carman, Linda Mangano’s defense attorney, started off lamenting that jurors were not hearing the El Chapo case. “That’s all about sex, all about money,” he said, as some jurors grinned.
This trial, Carman said — in fact, he went on to promise — is going to be tedious.
“You can be sure that Netflix is not breaking down the door,” he said.
He also warned jurors that the prosecution’s cases against Edward and Linda Mangano were separate.
“You can’t find Edward Mangano guilty because he is married to Linda,” he said.
“You can’t find Linda Mangano guilty because he is married to Ed,” Carman said, and then quickly corrected himself, “She is married to Ed.”
Carman, in opening statements in Linda Mangano’s first trial, told jurors that she did not know what false statements she was alleged to have made to the FBI — because prosecutors had not given the defense a list.
This time around, prosecutors did provide a list, a detailed one
And so Carman did a pivot from his first trial opening statement, too.
He talked about making sausage.
“During the trial we are going to take a walk behind the swinging doors, you know, [at the] butcher,” he said. “We are going to show how it’s done and it’s not going to be pretty.”
With that, he went on to discuss the process of getting statements in FBI interviews, noting that notes were taken by hand rather than verbatim — or by video and audio recordings.
He singled out an FBI special agent, Laura Spence, in the room, who had taken some of the notes.
“I’m not going to be mean and accuse Agent Spence of being a slow writer,” Carman said. “But can she pull this off?”
In the spectator benches, a few reporters, scribbling furiously, pen to pad, paused long enough to glance at each other and smile.
Before scribbling furiously, once more.
Unlike last time, Singh was not the prosecution’s first witness.
Instead, prosecutors called vendors and other witnesses who handled gifts Singh gave to the Manganos — including showroom manager of a flooring store who remembered Linda Mangano coming in and selecting flooring Singh later paid to have installed in the Mangano home.
But Singh’s name did come up — several times.
Singh, Gatz said, would walk jurors through much of the prosecution’s evidence, adding that he, and other witnesses, would be testifying under an agreement with the government.
Keating — more than once — said Singh had a “dark, corrupt soul.” And that Singh was a “man with a mask” who had stolen from his own father.
Carman questioned Singh’s motives as well.
“Was Harendra Singh really the friend of the Mangano’s or was he pretending for those 20 years?”
A previous version of the email preview incorrectly identified the defendants on trial.