Mano a mano
While two secretly recorded conversations with prosecution witness Harendra Singh garnered significant attention at the trial of Nassau’s former County Executive Edward Mangano, his wife, Linda, and Oyster Bay’s former Town Supervisor John Venditto last week, there were plentiful other exchanges going on.
By week’s end — after four consecutive days under cross-examination by Kevin Keating, Mangano’s attorney — Singh appeared to be tiring.
On Thursday, Singh’s usually crisp answers of “yes,” for example, had turned into slight drawls of “yeah.”
Keating, meanwhile, during the last 90 minutes of cross-examination on Thursday, got a break from days of asking Singh about piles of emails, text messages, photographs, agreements and other documents.
That came as an audio recording of Singh saying, among other things, that he had received nothing from Mangano, played in the courtroom. And then a second audio recording, with Singh saying that he had nothing to tell federal officials about politicians.
As jurors listened, raptly, Keating — for the first time after a week of verbal jousting with Singh — got a rare opportunity to sit down.
At one point, Singh testified last week, two former Oyster Bay Town officials — Leonard Genova, Oyster Bay’s former deputy town supervisor and later town attorney, and Frederick Mei, a former deputy town attorney — told a town vendor that he could keep his contract to handle concessions at facilities.
But only if he gave up one of them — Tobay Beach, which the town, at Singh’s request, ultimately awarded to him.
“You don’t call that rigging?” Keating asked, after Singh disagreed with the defense lawyer’s characterization of the process.
“I’d call it . . .,” Singh began.
“Business?” Keating asked, bearing down.
“Yes,” Singh replied.
Keating questioned Singh about a certified public accountant he relied upon to prepare financial documents. The CPA, Keating asked, “had the willingness to . . . falsify all of those documents?”
Singh, as he often does, paused.
But just for a beat.
“I will say,” Singh testified, “that he would prepare whatever I asked him to.”
After a long stretch of cross-examination, during which Singh had been asked about loans and storm damage and a letter that falsely stated Singh’s academic and business-related credentials, the topic turned to a fundraiser for the Raj & Rajeshwari Foundation, a charity founded by Singh’s retired physician father that runs a hospital in Bhagahi-Pahli, Gonda District, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was held at Singh’s flagship restaurant, H.R. Singletons.
“I believe they had bought a cow,” Singh testified, matter-of-factly, looking toward Keating when asked about Edward and Linda Mangano’s $2,500 donation.
“Did you say a cow?” U.S. District Court Judge Joan M. Azrack asked, as the courtroom suddenly perked up.
“Yes, your honor,” Singh said, turning to look up toward the bench.
“Now, please explain,” Azrack said.
“You could buy a lamb or a chicken . . . ” Singh began.
“But it is a symbol?” the judge asked. “You are not bringing a real . . . ”
“You buy a cow there,” Singh explained, “and the milk is given to the patients who come to the hospital.”
Keating asked Singh, again, about the more than $200,000 in cash he and his staff stored in a safe at Singletons.
Singh said some of it was used to pay off-the-book employees. Earlier, he testified that some of it was used to pay bribes to two former Oyster Bay Town employees — Frederick Ippolito and Mei.
Singh said he took cash from that safe, too.
“I had a very little,” he testified, “$1,500 a week I take for myself.”
Measure by measure
Singh showed a tendency to be very specific about several items during Keating’s cross-examination.
At one point, for example, Keating said that H.R. Singletons was close to the Mangano home in Bethpage.
“One mile away,” Keating said.
“One-point-eight,” Singh responded.
Later, Keating, in asking about one of the many business loans Singh managed to have the Town of Oyster Bay — directly and indirectly — guarantee, referenced a “$4.4 million loan . . . ”
“Four-point-three,” Singh responded. “Not four-point-four.”
Mask and gown
While Singh had some success referring friends, family and acquaintances for jobs in Nassau, there were some failures too, he testified. One was a Queens publisher who — twice, Singh testified — wanted to be appointed to the Nassau Community College board. And then there was a submission — Keating and Singh had some back-and-forth over whether the exhibit showed a resume or what Singh called “scores,” or both — from an applicant who wanted a residency at Nassau University Medical Center.
Keating asked whether the applicant got a residency.
“He was interviewed,” Singh testified, but he said he did not know much else.
“Whatever happened,” Singh said, “happened.”
Coming up next week
Keating, of Garden City, is slated to continue his cross-examination when the trial resumes Monday. Once he has finished — and on Thursday he predicted it could be by lunch break — next up is slated to be John Carman, also of Garden City, Linda Mangano’s attorney.
There’s yet no prediction on how long Carman could question Singh. But once he’s through, cross-examination also will come from Marc Agnifilo of Manhattan, the attorney for Venditto — which means Singh probably will be under cross-examination all week.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated who allegedly received cash from a safe at Singletons. Harendra Singh testified he had made cash payments to Frederick Ippolito and Frederick Mei.