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Morrison juror testifies on alleged bribe

Undated photo of Rodney Morrison.

Undated photo of Rodney Morrison. Credit: Handout

A juror in the trial of convicted cigarette bootlegger Rodney Morrison testified Friday that he had told two other jurors during deliberations five years ago about a telephone call from a person he assumed was Morrison's son.

But the juror, Keith Anstead, said he did not tell the two jurors about a bribe offer he received during a phone call, though he previously had said he told federal investigators about the bribe offer.

Anstead's testimony came at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip at which Morrison's lawyers sought to overturn two 2008 convictions -- for racketeering on the Poospatuck Indian Reservation in Mastic and for being a felon in possession of a gun -- on the grounds that jury deliberations were prejudiced by the alleged bribe offer. At the same 2008 trial, Morrison was acquitted on charges of murder, arson, extortion and robbery.

Morrison has been sentenced to 10 years on the gun charge and could be sentenced to 20 years on the racketeering charge.

Morrison's attorneys are arguing there is no proof their client was behind any supposed bribe, so he should get a new trial on the gun and multimillion-dollar cigarette racketeering charges. But to retry him on the charges of which he was acquitted -- murder, arson, extortion and robbery -- would violate double-jeopardy rules.

Federal prosecutors Nicole Boeckmann and James Miskiewicz, however, have argued in court papers that Morrison should be retried on all counts and that double jeopardy does not apply.

Under questioning by Kenneth Ravenell, one of Morrison's attorneys, Anstead testified he did not take the bribe offer seriously, could not recall the exact amount -- though it could have been as much as $20,000 -- and never received any money.

Michelle Carratu, an alternate juror who was driving the car when Anstead received the call, testified the bribe offered was $20,000 and Anstead appeared to be negotiating over the amount. Carratu said she heard only Anstead's side of the conversation. Both have said they found a cellphone in a court parking lot on which Anstead had the conversation about a possible bribe.

Carratu said the name of the incoming caller displayed on the phone was Rodney Morrison Jr. Anstead said he assumed the caller was Morrison's son because the phone's contact list had several Morrisons and a video showed a person who resembled a younger Morrison.

The hearing is expected to continue in a few weeks before U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley.

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