This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Bridget Murphy, Emily Ngo and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.
The judge overseeing the 10-week-old federal corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto on Monday rejected their efforts to have their charges dismissed.
“There’s more than sufficient evidence for this case to go to the jury on all counts,” U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack said.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Tuesday morning.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys rested Monday, and the Manganos and Venditto waived their right to testify or present their own witnesses.
Jurors have heard nine weeks of testimony put forth by prosecutors in efforts to buttress their case that Edward Mangano and Venditto took bribes from restaurateur Harendra Singh.
The elected officials, in exchange, helped Singh to secure two lucrative county contracts and more than $20 million in town-guaranteed loans, prosecutors say.
The charges against Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, and Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, include conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and honest-services wire fraud, extortion for Mangano and securities fraud for Venditto.
The charges against Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, are charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI.
The three have pleaded not guilty.
On Monday afternoon, Azrack also denied a request by Venditto’s defense team that she give jurors “advice-of-counsel instruction.” Venditto’s attorneys had sought to make the case that he was acting on the guidance of his lawyers during his time as town supervisor.
Azrack in her decision noted that Venditto himself was an attorney, “not an unsophisticated client.”
Earlier Monday after the jurors had been dismissed for the day, defense attorneys argued that the testimony and evidence introduced was not sufficient enough to go to the jury — a routine legal motion in criminal trials.
Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, Venditto’s lawyer, said: “He is as innocent as the day we started . . . I will go to my grave believing that.”
John Carman of Garden City said his client: “Viewed from any angle . . . no rational juror could find Linda Mangano guilty of any of these charges.”
Kevin Keating of Garden City, who represents Edward Mangano, focused first on the honest-services fraud and bribery counts against his client.
“If the law has any meaning, these charges cannot go to the jury,” he said. “None of these acts constitute an official act.”
A bribery conviction requires that a public official perform an official act in return for a thing of value, Keating noted.
Keating said that what prosecutors say Mangano did — gathering with officials, setting up meetings, giving advice — were not official Nassau County acts.
And the former county executive cannot be held responsible for what the Town of Oyster Bay did, he said.
Keating cited the pivotal April 28, 2010, meeting of county and town officials and attorneys at Venditto’s campaign headquarters in North Massapequa. Singh went on to secure a $1.5 million line of credit using Oyster Bay’s creditworthiness soon afterward — his first of a series of town-guaranteed loans.
There was no evidence of a crime and several witnesses said Mangano remained silent at that meeting, Keating said.
Jonathan Sinnreich, outside counsel to Oyster Bay, had testified, however, that he recalled Mangano speaking and advocating for Singh.
Keating said Mangano’s role in the loan guarantees ended with that meeting and never involved Nassau County.
Keating said of Singh: “His quid pro quo arrangement is with the Town of Oyster Bay. There are zero facts to suggest that Ed Mangano pressured John Venditto. Zero.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile said Sinnreich and then-Deputy Town Supervisor Leonard Genova had halted Singh’s pursuit of town-guaranteed loans until Mangano got involved at Singh’s request.
Even if jurors accept that Mangano remained silent at the April 28, 2010, meeting, his presence said plenty, she said.
It said: “Make this work for Harendra Singh,” Mirabile said.
Also Monday, Linda Mangano’s attorney, Carman, conceded that his client had a “low-show job,” but not that she lied to federal agents as charged.
She was never informed of what her supposed lies were, he said. “Linda’s actual statements are unknown,” he said.
He noted that any statements she made to the FBI were not recorded verbatim. “Words have been added. Words have been subtracted,” Carman said. “These are their statements. They’re just not Linda Mangano’s.”
Then, Venditto’s attorney, Agnifilo, argued that the evidence his client “did anything wrong is remarkably thin.”
The attendees at the April 28, 2010, meeting had included Sinnreich, who had testified that he vehemently opposed the town backing loans for Singh — and Venditto had him speak first, Agnifilo noted.
“A bad-faith meeting would not include Sinnreich,” he said.
Azrack noted that Mangano was there, too.
“Is John Venditto supposed to lock the door and tell the county executive he can’t come in?” Agnifilo responded.
Azrack asked about Singh testifying that he bribed Venditto.
“He’s going to say whatever he wants to say to get no jail,” Agnifilo said of Singh, then adding of Venditto: “What did he get that’s so powerful that he would throw his political career down the toilet?”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz said the evidence of a crime is that so many town officials went to such lengths to get Singh his financing.
All these town officials acted at Venditto’s direction, and he acted because Mangano leaned on him, she argued.
“The crime is complete after the April 28 meeting,” she said. “The official acts are taken. The bribes are given.”