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Power on Trial: New witnesses for the prosecution testify

John Venditto arrives at federal court in Central

John Venditto arrives at federal court in Central Islip on Thursday. Credit: James Carbone

Breaking ranks

A sitting Republican state assemblyman broke with the usually tight Nassau GOP to testify for the prosecution in the trial of Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, his wife, Linda, and John Venditto, Oyster Bay’s former town supervisor.

But it wasn’t the first time.

Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) told jurors that shortly after his election in February 2010, he was asked by Jim Picken, chairman of the Oyster Bay Republican Committee, to give Linda Mangano a job.

He also said Picken told him to pay her “your full budget” — the $85,000 he was allocated by the state Assembly to pay staff.

Montesano, a former NYPD police officer and detective, said he told Picken no. “I looked at him and said I didn’t think it was a good idea,” he testified.

And then Montesano called Mangano, twice leaving messages, as a courtesy.

He said Mangano called him back, saying that Linda Mangano wasn’t going to take the job. Montesano said he hadn’t planned to offer her a job anyway.

Former restaurateur Harendra Singh, of Laurel Hollow, has testified that he had hired Mangano’s wife for a no-show job in which she earned $450,000 between 2010 and 2014.

Montesano won office in a special election to replace Rob Walker, a former assemblyman who became Mangano’s chief deputy county executive.

In a separate corruption-related case, Walker has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing justice and lying to FBI agents.

Suspicious surroundings

John Venditto’s Massapequa campaign headquarters came up again in testimony Monday as the trial entered its fifth week.

Earlier in the trial, Singh told jurors that the drapes to the storefront headquarters always were drawn. And the prosecution, more than once, has projected photographs of the office onto the courtroom’s big screen.

Last week, defense attorneys, using a similar photograph, noted that businesses on either side of the headquarters had window coverings as well.

On Monday, Nassau police Det. Daniel Dacres, who was an occasional driver and bodyguard for Edward Mangano, testified that he felt uneasy dropping Mangano off at the headquarters.

“Were you concerned?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz.”

“Yes,” Dacres answered.

“It didn’t look like it was open, didn’t look like a regular business,” he said. “It was suspicious, to me at least.”

The pace quickens

After 13 days of hearing one witness, Harendra Singh, jurors Monday watched prosecutors and defense attorneys zip through questioning of eight witnesses in one day.

There was the police detective who drove Edward Mangano to a meeting that Singh requested with Oyster Bay Town officials and lawyers about Singh’s push to have the town guarantee his company’s loans.

There was the assemblyman who testified that he turned down a request from his town political leader to give Linda Mangano a job — and pay her $85,000 that was supposed to cover the cost of his entire staff.

There were two brothers, co-owners of a limousine service, whom — along with later testimony of two limousine drivers — prosecutors used to try to rebut the defense’s contention that John Venditto and his family paid cash to cover some rides. Singh testified earlier that he paid for rides for members of the Venditto family.

There was the representative from a payroll processing firm who said she handled Singh’s payroll for 10 years.

There was also Singh’s then-administrative employee, who told jurors that she helped Singh by keeping two sets of payroll records — one for those paid on the books and one for those paid off the books.

And that she got a no-prosecution agreement to help prosecutors, which included gathering documents while she still was employed by Singh.

She also testified that she and her husband, another then-Singh employee, wore wires for the federal government 40 times.

Musical chairs

Linda Mangano burst into tears Thursday as prosecutors questioned Singh about whether he thought she might have had time to buy her son a birthday present, a reaction that led to a bench conference.

“So, during the break, you’re going to do musical chairs and move your client so she’s facing me, and she’s going to compose herself because I’m not going to have her sit there crying facing the jury,” U.S. District Court Judge Joan M. Azrack told John Carman, Linda Mangano’s attorney, according to a transcript.

“I don’t think that was an act, frankly,” Carman responded. “That’s fine, wherever you want her.”

“I’ll assume it’s genuine, but it’s not appropriate, and that’s why I took the break,” the judge went on.

“I couldn’t stop it,” Carman said.

“I saw you sort of tried,” the judge said. “I know it’s difficult, but that’s what you’re going to do, switch and go back . . . to your original seats.”

“We know where they are,” Carman said. “We’re like homing pigeons. We will find them.”

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