This story was reported by Nicole Fuller, Robert E. Kessler, Chau Lam, Bridget Murphy, Emily Ngo and Andrew Smith. It was written by Ngo.
Former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto was acquitted Thursday on all corruption-related charges as a federal jury delivered a partial verdict before continuing its deliberations on his co-defendants, former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and his wife, Linda.
Venditto was cleared on 27 counts that included federal program bribery, honest-services wire fraud and securities fraud in the trial now nearing the end of its 11th week.
He remained stoic in the Central Islip courtroom as, count by count, the “not guilty” findings became a refrain.
He blew a kiss to his wife toward the end.
“From the very first day I started in law school, I have had nothing but faith in our justice system and the events of today confirm that faith,” Venditto told Newsday after he was dismissed with the well wishes of U.S. District Judge Joan M. Azrack.
But the jury of seven women and five men was set to return Friday to carry on their consideration of the federal corruption charges that the Manganos face.
The panel asked Thursday to review portions of testimony by restaurateur Harendra Singh that relate to the county jail bread-and-rolls contract that prosecutors say he secured with Edward Mangano’s help and to the visits Singh paid to Linda Mangano at her Bethpage home in 2015.
The jurors earlier in the week had requested other testimony and evidence that relate to the two county contracts Singh received in 2012 and to the FBI’s interviews of Linda Mangano at her home.
Prosecutors allege that Edward Mangano steered the contracts to Singh and pressured Oyster Bay officials to guarantee loans for Singh. Prosecutors say Mangano did so in exchange for an illegal stream of benefits that included family vacations on Singh’s dime and a no-show job for Linda Mangano with Singh that paid $450,000.
Edward Mangano, 56, of Bethpage, faces charges that include federal program bribery, honest-services wire fraud and extortion. Linda Mangano, 54, of Bethpage, is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI — all in relation to her job with Singh.
The Manganos have pleaded not guilty.
They declined to comment on Venditto’s acquittal as they left Alfonse D’Amato U.S. Courthouse Thursday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, inside, there was tension as the jury delivered a morning note to Azrack saying it had reached a verdict on one defendant but was split on the others.
Then, for Venditto and his family, that tension gave way to relief as the not-guilty findings were read.
Prosecutors had alleged that Venditto, 68, of North Massapequa, accepted free limo rides and other perks from Singh and, in exchange, helped Singh obtain the more than $20 million in business loans pegged to Oyster Bay’s creditworthiness.
“Mr. Venditto, you are excused. Good luck,” Azrack said after his verdict was read.
“Thank you,” he replied.
Venditto, who served for two decades as the Town of Oyster Bay’s top-ranking elected official until his January 2017 resignation, appeared calm. His family members were less so.
His wife, Christine, sobbed audibly and wiped at her eyes.
She leaned on the shoulder of one son, Nicholas, then hugged the other, Michael.
Michael Venditto, a former state senator, prayed out loud and pointed toward the ceiling.
“God is good and protects his chosen people,” he told Newsday.
John Venditto, later addressing reporters in the parking lot of the courthouse, recounted the moment.
“What was going through my mind is that . . . the jury got to the truth,” he said.
“When I see the power that the government has over a defendant, it made me wonder about how many people, how many men and women, are in jail today because maybe they couldn’t get a lawyer to represent them of the caliber that I got,” he continued. “Maybe because the government was so overreaching, so overreaching, that it just crushed them.”
Asked whether he was now prepared to face the unrelated state corruption charges pending against him, Venditto replied: “I’m ready for anything.”
But he also questioned the damage done.
“Where do I go after what’s been done to my reputation, what’s been done to my family’s reputation?” he asked.
He suggested that he had been charged as a means of hurting his son’s political career, saying that his initial October 2016 indictment came just weeks before Michael Venditto was up for reelection to the state Senate.
John Venditto’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, said: “I knew he was innocent from the first day I met him. It was just a matter of me going out and bringing the evidence to the jury’s attention. And we did that.”
Though the Manganos had declined to comment, their lawyers said they were glad at the outcome for Venditto.
“We’re very relieved for John, because he’s a great man and a wonderful public servant, and the verdict reflects that,” Linda Mangano’s lawyer, John Carman of Garden City, told Newsday.
“We’re very happy for John, and we’re pleased the jury is carefully examining the evidence, and we remain confident,” Edward Mangano’s attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, told Newsday.
Prosecutors declined to comment after the partial verdict was returned.
They had contested allowing the jury to return a partial verdict so soon in the deliberations process.
In a morning discussion with Azrack and the defense attorneys, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Mirabile cited the recent corruption trial of Joseph Percoco, the former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in Manhattan. That jury had deliberated for eight days and gotten three Allen charges — instructions that they work through their differences to reach a verdict — before delivering a partial verdict.
“We think they should go back in there and do their jobs, like we have done ours,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz added.
Jurors are set Friday to begin their sixth day of deliberations.
Over the course of the trial, they have taken in the testimony of 60 witnesses and evidence totaling more than 1,100 exhibits.