“This is lawyer versus lawyer,” U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack observed, wryly, during Edward Mangano’s defense attorney’s cross-examination of Jonathan Sinnreich, outside counsel for the Town of Oyster Bay.
Throughout the morning on Tuesday, the pair sparred verbally — over everything from Sinnreich’s earlier statements to the government to the legal definition of “consideration.”
Jurors seemed to be entertained by the back and forth.
At one point — no, make that several — Kevin Keating pressed Sinnreich for simple responses.
“Answer the question,” Keating said more than once.
“I’m trying,” Sinnreich would respond.
In addition, there were multiple instances where Keating would ask whether Sinnreich would remember events, statements or the agreements.
That’s when several Sinnreich responses got real simple.
“No,” he would respond.
In late morning, Keating stood, saying softly, “Judge, judge,” while trying to get the attention of Azrack — even as Sinnreich kept talking over him.
The prosecution had lodged an objection.
And Azrack had overruled it.
But Keating had not heard the judge’s decision.
“I’m just asking straightforward questions, your honor,” Keating said, once things died down.
“I know,” the judge responded. “I didn’t have a problem with your question.”
Keating spent considerable effort working to get Sinnreich to acknowledge he had agreed with some efforts by Oyster Bay Town officials to get around a portion of the New York State Constitution banning municipalities from backing loans for private businesses.
But Sinnreich wasn’t biting.
In fact, the lawyer used almost every one of Keating’s questions on the matter to make his opposition to the deal known.
“The town was being asked to sweeten a deal that the town had already made,” Sinnreich testified. “ . . . The sweetener was a pure gift and that was unconstitutional.”
And later: “It was frankly an outrageous demand to ask the [town] to pay the bank’s lawyers,” Sinnreich said.
Later still: “I think what was being proposed was bogus and a sham.”
Keating did not give up.
“So, you liked the concept?” he asked, referring to revisions to a potential agreement to have Oyster Bay indirectly back loans for former restaurateur Harendra Singh.
“No, I didn’t like the concept,” Sinnreich said, before finally giving in a little with, “but that was what the client wanted.”
Keating then asked about “considerations” — potential revisions to a proposal that would give Oyster Bay something in return for helping Singh.
One such “consideration” was “forbearance” — that is an agreement that Singh, come what may, would not sue the town.
“Forbearance is consideration, would you agree?” Keating pressed.
“Not when it is a complete fabrication and a sham as it was in this instance,” Sinnreich answered.
Linda Mangano seemed to perk up at the defense table when Sinnreich objected to Keating’s characterization of an April 2010 meeting, which included Sinnreich, then-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and former town Supervisor John Venditto, to discuss the Singh loans as a “brainstorm.”
While cross-examining earlier witnesses, John Carman, Linda Mangano’s attorney, complained frequently that notes taken by FBI agents did not include his client’s exact words.
On Tuesday, Sinnreich complained about the same thing — regarding the word “brainstorming.”
“I am told that is the word that is used in the government’s notes but those are not my notes,” Sinnreich said. “So I didn’t consider it ‘brainstorming.’ It was a problem-definition meeting, as I said.”
Keating, however, returned to the issue later, presenting Sinnreich with a copy of notes from interviews he had with the government.
Sinnreich read them, and then handed the notes back.
“That was not my word,” he said, again.
“You know what?” Sinnreich continued. “It was a long time ago, and it [the notes] does not accurately reflect what was going on.”
In for the count
Keating and Sinnreich also sparred over whether Sinnreich’s legal opinions ever had been found to be wrong.
The best Keating got in response was this:
“I don’t think my legal opinions are wrong very often, but sometimes they have been determined by the courts to be wrong,” Sinnreich said.
Keating fared better, however, on the composition of the Oyster Bay Town Board.
He asked Sinnreich whether he knew there were seven board members.
Sinnreich disagreed, saying he was confident that the board had five.
After a break, Keating displayed a board resolution on the court’s big screen.
It showed one, two, three, four, five, six, seven members.
Was he or wasn’t he
Sinnreich, in direct testimony and under cross-examination, placed Edward Mangano at an April 2010 meeting to discuss whether Oyster Bay could back Singh’s loans.
As he did during the first trial, Sinnreich testified that Mangano arrived late.
That Mangano stood behind Singh.
And that, at meeting’s end, Mangano placed his hand on Singh’s shoulder.
“He reached down . . . he put his hand down,” Sinnreich said.
And then, Sinnreich said, Mangano indicated that the group should try to help Singh.
Later, the day’s second witness, William Savino of the Rivkin Radler law firm, said he had attended the same meeting as well.
He remembered Sinnreich. And former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto as being in attendance, along with two or three others.
Savino said he could not recall whether Mangano had been in the room.
The second time around
Much of Tuesday’s testimonies from Sinnreich and Savino were a repeat of testimonies during the first trial — although both the prosecution and defense introduced photographs, phone records and other new exhibits.
At one point, Keating read a portion of a statement Sinnreich made during a government interview years ago.
“I do recall you read that to me in the last trial,” Sinnreich said.
Whoops, once more
Azrack had ruled early on that prosecutors and defense attorneys could refer to the Mangano mistrial as a “prior proceeding.”
As for exhibits — both old and new — entered into evidence, Azrack told jurors that everything would be delivered to them in the jury room once deliberations began.
At that, several jurors looked around at each other, some with raised eyebrows — which did not necessarily indicate excitement at the prospect of having reams of texts, emails, contracts, phone records and other documents at the ready sometime down the line.
Savino, with lawyerly precision, politely challenged Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile’s assertion that he had hosted a party for workers who had helped with ballot counting in the days after Mangano’s 300-vote victory over former County Executive Thomas Suozzi in 2009 to win a first term.
“It was a reception, call it a party if you will,” Savino said. “Most people would have been bored.”
No one was bored, however, when Azrack ended the Tuesday session early — because of snow.
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