Real estate developer Robert Toussie broke into tears on the witness stand Tuesday as he recounted being thrown out of a county land auction in 2004.
Toussie, who has sued the county for barring him from surplus land sales, recalled how he and his wife, Laura, were escorted out of the auction by county police who threatened to arrest them if they did not leave.
"I was terrified. My wife was terrified. I was terrified for my wife," the developer said under questioning by his attorney, Abbe Lowell, in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
But under cross-examination by Assistant County Attorney Chris Termini, Toussie acknowledged he kept bidding after county officials told him at the 2004 auction they would not accept his bids and asked him to leave.
He became combative on the witness stand when asked about his corporate organization and business activities, replying "I do not know" or "I don't remember" to many questions. At several points, he earned a rebuke from U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert for not directly responding to questions.
Toussie's $21-million decade-long suit against the county charges its officials discriminated against him and violated his rights. He was not allowed to buy property at the county's 2001 and 2002 auctions -- despite being the highest bidder on many parcels -- and his bids weren't accepted at the 2004 auction.
During more than six hours of testimony, Toussie said county lawmakers who voted to not accept his bids did not contact him directly. Rather, he said, they failed to properly investigate what he termed unfounded accounts reported in Newsday on his business activities.
Toussie has never been convicted of a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. In 2010, Toussie and a local mortgage bank agreed to pay $455,000 to settle a nearly decade-old class action accusing them of conspiring to sell shoddily built overpriced homes to more than 250 minority home buyers, mostly on Long Island. Toussie and the bank denied the allegations.
Toussie said he had never previously been blocked from purchasing surplus land, although he had bought "a minimum of 500 parcels" from the county since the 1970s, paying a total of nearly $25 million.
Later, former County Legis. George Guldi, one of the lawmakers who voted to block Toussie's bids, briefly took the stand. But Seybert excused Guldi, a diabetic, when he said he felt weak because he had not been fed for 10 hours. He is serving a 4- to 12-year sentence for a state fraud and grand larceny conviction.