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Judge seeks 2008 jury tampering details

Undated photo of Rodney Morrison.

Undated photo of Rodney Morrison. Credit: Handout

A federal judge ruled Tuesday he wants testimony from two more members of the jury that in 2008 convicted Rodney Morrison of running a multimillion-dollar cigarette-bootlegging operation on the Poospatuck Indian Reservation in Mastic before deciding if Morrison should get a new trial because of jury tampering.

In addition to a racketeering conviction, Morrison also was convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun, but acquitted of murder, arson, robbery and extortion charges.

U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley acted Tuesday in federal court in Central Islip after listening to accounts of another juror on the Morrison panel as well as an alternate.

"There was improper influence exerted on the jury," Hurley concluded after hearing the testimony of juror Keith Anstead and alternate Michelle Carratu. He said he wanted further information before deciding the impact this influence had.

Attorneys for Morrison, including Kenneth Ravenell, have argued their client should be retried on the racketeering and gun charges, but to retry him on the murder and other charges of which he was convicted would amount to double jeopardy.

But federal prosecutors James Miskiewicz and Nicole Boeckmann have argued, on one hand, that if the tainting of jury was "harmless" and had no effect on deliberations, the racketeering and gun charges should stand.

On the other hand, the prosecutors have argued that, if there was improper influences that seriously affected the jurors, then Morrison should be retried on all charges, including the ones of which he was acquitted.

At least one legal scholar has argued the situation is highly unusual and that the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the complex circumstances in the case.

Morrison already has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on the gun charge, and he faces 20 years more when sentenced on the racketeering charge if that conviction stands.

The complicated situation arose when federal investigators were tipped recently that the juror and the alternate five years ago discovered a cellphone next to the car in which they were commuting during deliberations. The juror and alternate thought a Morrison relative called on the phone and offered Anstead a bribe of up to $20,000 if he would throw the case.

Anstead testified he turned down the offer and never received any money, but Carratu testified she thought he might have been negotiating a price. Anstead also testified he told two other jurors about finding the cellphone, but did not tell them about the bribe offer.

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