On the last day of May, the case against Edward Mangano, Nassau’s former county executive, and Linda Mangano, his wife, formally ended in a mistrial.
But not before a dramatic afternoon of waiting — during which there came word of a note from the jury, the contents of which were not immediately made public.
That was followed by a wait, in a courtroom that went from almost empty to almost full within minutes.
At 1:45 p.m. U.S. District Court Judge Joan Azrack entered the courtroom for the second time on Thursday and called prosecutors and defense attorneys for a bench conference.
At which point, the white noise machine was turned on.
Three minutes later, the judge, the lawyers, court staff and the court reporter left the room.
Usually, that would signal the start of conversation in the courtroom.
This time, it didn’t.
Instead, 10 minutes crept by.
At 1:58 p.m., a courtroom door began to open, the same door the judge and lawyers had walked out of 10 minutes earlier.
The room went still.
But then came chuckles of relief as Stuart, as he does most afternoons, walked in to empty the courtroom’s trash cans.
He made a quick bow to sprinkled applause.
At 2:18 p.m., Edward and Linda Mangano briefly left the courtroom.
A few reporters followed.
At 2:29 p.m., to the relief of those still waiting, a court official — finally — turned off the white noise machine. “Sorry,” she said.
At 2:32 p.m., a row of FBI employees left the bench behind the prosecution table in the courtroom.
And still, for the courtroom crowd, there was no word of what was happening.
Two minutes later, Linda Mangano and her attorneys left the courtroom. She was crying as she walked down the hallway, but dry-eyed when she returned.
At 3:01 p.m., Edward and Linda Mangano left the room, this time with their attorneys, to talk in a conference room just outside the inner courtroom doors.
At some point, their son, Al, joined them.
At another point, Mangano’s father waited outside.
And later, the couple talked again with their lawyers, in the hallway.
In the courtroom, there were whispers.
Is there a deal? Is there a mistrial? What was in the jury note? Is there some kind of plea bargain? What on earth is going on?
A short time later, Edward and Linda Mangano, along with their attorneys, returned to the defense table. They were smiling as they began to pack up telephone chargers and other belongings.
And finally, at 3:22 p.m., Azrack entered the room.
“Please be seated,” she said.
“After consulting with the attorneys,” she said, “I am declaring a mistrial in this case.”
At that, several reporters bolted from the courtroom.
After words I
Once the jury was dismissed, Bob, the judge’s clerk, showed a copy of a juror’s note to reporters in the courtroom.
“I can no longer carry out my duties as a juror,” the note read.
“I wish to be excused.”
It was signed by Juror No. Two.
A New York City police officer who had been selected by his peers to be the jury foreman.
Earlier, the foreman had been seen entering the courthouse with a box of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a big white bag, which, presumably, contained Munchkins.
“Maybe it’s a last meal together,” one lawyer speculated after the foreman had walked past toward the jury room.
“Maybe they don’t plan on being here for lunch,” one reporter speculated.
After the mistrial, Kevin Keating, Edward Mangano’s lawyer, was asked whether he had ever seen a jury foreman ask to be excused from a jury.
He shrugged in response.
After words II
There were plentiful hugs, kisses and tears from Mangano family, friends and supporters, who, along with several FBI employees and a reporter or two, were the only ones left in the courtroom.
Edward and Linda Mangano, still standing behind the defendants’ table, reached across the bar to hug each and every one.
“Korea was easier,” Mangano’s father said, after hugging Mangano’s older brother, as the former county executive’s mother, with tears in her eyes, stood nearby.
At one point, Linda Mangano pulled a box of Girl Scout cookies from the defense table and placed them on the courtroom bar.
“These are emergency cookies,” she said, before leaving the spot she had occupied for most of the one-day-shy of 12-week trial. “I’m not going to need them anymore.”
At one point, Al Mangano suggested to his parents that they not speak to reporters until after Keating, who had gone off to speak to jurors, returned to the courtroom.
“I’ll just go like this,” Edward Mangano said to a reporter as he swung open the double-doors separating the courtroom well from the spectator section.
He looked the reporter straight in the face.
After words III
Keating, in an interview outside the courtroom, quashed speculation that a potential plea deal may have been on the table.
“We never had a discussion,” Keating said.
“He is innocent,” Keating said of his client, Edward Mangano.
“From Day One, we have said there would be no deal,” he added.
OK, so what was happening after Azrack, prosecutors and defense attorneys left the courtroom?
Keating said the foreman — the juror who wrote the note that set off the afternoon’s events — was interviewed.
And then Keating joined Linda Mangano and Edward Mangano for the long walk to the elevator, and the longer walk across the courtroom plaza to the parking lot, where a legion of reporters and photographers were waiting to meet them.
After words IV
Prosecutors walked down the same hallway. But official comment comes from the U.S. attorney’s office press office, not from prosecutors.
And the official reaction was this:
“No comment on the mistrial. The U.S. Attorney’s Office intends to retry the Manganos.”
Eat the cake
“Happy birthday,” Azrack had told Keating, as she entered the courtroom for the first time in the day on Thursday.
“My advice to you,” she went on, “eat the cupcake.”
The cupcake in question had been presented to the lawyer on Wednesday, Keating’s birthday, by Linda Mangano. But Keating, as Newsday reporter Nicole Fuller reported on Twitter, declined to eat it.
But Linda Mangano had no hard feelings.
She and her husband both hugged Keating after the judge declared a mistrial.
And long after everyone was gone, the cupcake remained in a pink box at the defense table, untouched.
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