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New Cassel case judge scolds defense

Former Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin leaves the

Former Nassau County Legislator Roger Corbin leaves the District Attorney's office after being arrested. (July 22, 2010) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The judge in the New Cassel corruption trial Thursday scolded defense attorneys, who objected when he delayed jury deliberations so a member of the panel could attend an out-of-state memorial service.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Alan Honorof dismissed the jury Thursday morning for a three-day break so that a man identified only as juror number 2 could travel to Mississippi for services honoring a murdered family member. Deliberations will resume Monday at 5 p.m.

After the jury left the courtroom, defense attorneys questioned whether the judge could authorize such a lengthy postponement. Honorof replied that he was "not happy with the entire defense team . . . I am trying to help out a man whose brother was killed three weeks ago, and you guys didn't let me help him."

He refused the attorneys' request that he declare a mistrial and confirmed that deliberations will resume Monday. Frederick K. Brewington, representing one of three defendants, protested Honorof's comments and said the lawyers "didn't create this circumstance."

"Yes, you did," Honorof countered.

"We didn't kill this man's brother," Brewington said.

The half-hour debate in Nassau County Court in Mineola was the latest odd twist in a six-month trial that has seen charges dropped against one of four original defendants and a key witness cited for perjury.

Former Nassau County legislators Roger Corbin and Patrick Williams and another man, Neville Mullings, former head of North Hempstead Town's Community Development Agency, are on trial for official misconduct, fraud and other charges. Prosecutors say the three schemed to steal $150,000 in public funds and steer a New Cassel redevelopment to a developer willing to "pay to play."

The jury on Tuesday reached a partial verdict, convicting Corbin of bribe receiving and official misconduct. Mullings was found guilty of official misconduct. Both men were acquitted of some other charges. Williams was cleared of grand larceny. The jury has not reached verdicts on 16 other charges against Mullings, eight against Corbin and five against Williams.

The strain of the trial was evident Thursday. Williams' attorney, Michael Rosen, slammed a notebook on a table as he and Honorof traded barbs. All three attorneys spoke simultaneously at one point, prompting the court stenographer to throw up her hands.

Corbin, Williams and Mullings did not speak. Prosecutors mostly remained silent as Honorof argued with the defense.

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