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Round Two

John Venditto leaves federal court in Central Islip

John Venditto leaves federal court in Central Islip on Thursday after he was found not guilty on all charges. Credit: James Carbone

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Daily Point

Could Venditto testify in Mangano retrial?

A day after the mistrial in the federal case against Edward and Linda Mangano, the focus is on how the case plays out a second time around.

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District is certain to go for Round Two against the Manganos, but how would a retrial be different? Beyond the obvious strategy that the feds would do a better job screening jurors, what role, if any, could former defendant John Venditto play in the second trial?

Venditto, the former Town of Oyster Bay supervisor, was acquitted of all federal charges last week, when jurors came forward with a verdict that foreshadowed Thursday’s result. In an ordinary world, Venditto would be a star witness for the defense in a retrial of the Manganos. Venditto could help the Manganos by countering the testimony of the prosecution’s main witness, Harendra Singh, who is key to linking the former county executive to all the machinations that went on in Oyster Bay.

But Venditto is not in the clear. In fact, state charges in two indictments obtained by Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas in June 2017 might be more difficult to beat than the federal ones. The DA has wiretaps of Venditto and some of his co-defendants. Those cases, which faded into the background during the federal trial, will come into focus again on Tuesday morning, when State Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood of Westchester comes to the Mineola courthouse to get that case back on track.

The Mangano retrial is likely to go first, meaning Venditto’s testimony in that case could be used against him in the state case. So Venditto is pretty much reduced to taking the Fifth Amendment to protect himself.

“It would be malpractice to let him do it,” a former federal prosecutor told The Point.

So, as federal and county prosecutors feud over who has the better Oyster Bay case, the feds may be happy that the state has a hand to play.

Rita Ciolli

Talking Point

‘Very cynical about the prospects’

For the moment, Suffolk County Republican Legis. Tom Cilmi, of Bay Shore, finds himself in a surprising position: standing alongside the county’s Democrats in support of the next step for a massive development project backed by County Executive Steve Bellone.

In a memo and conversations with his caucus this week, Cilmi, the GOP minority leader, encouraged fellow Republicans to support a bill that allows the county to move forward in the early stages of a $1 billion plan to build a 17,500-seat arena, along with offices, retail space and a hotel, at the Ronkonkoma Hub.

But so far, Cilmi’s caucus isn’t following his lead. In a committee vote this week, fellow Republicans Robert Trotta and Kevin McCaffrey abstained, criticizing the lack of communication with them about Bellone’s April decision to choose the arena plan.

And Cilmi said he expects a similar response when the bill — which would designate developer Jones Lang LaSalle as the site’s master developer — goes before the full legislature on Tuesday. But since it only needs a majority, or 10 votes, to go forward, and there are 11 Democrats, the bill’s passage is likely, even without other Republican support.

If the bill is approved, Jones Lang LaSalle and its partners would then have eight months to develop the details of their proposal and address environmental, traffic and funding issues.

Cilmi told The Point that his support “should be distinct from any support for the project,” and came only because civic associations in his district asked for it.

“To the extent that it doesn’t commit the county to anything, or the town to anything, and doesn’t involve public funding, I’m perfectly happy to see what they come up with and see where the chips fall . . . ,” Cilmi said, emphasizing that his expected yes vote Tuesday does not translate into a yes for the project itself.

“I am very cynical about the prospects of this [plan], actually,” he said.

Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Operation Cruel

More cartoons of the week

Pointing Out

Zeldin doesn’t budge

There’s been a lot of blowback this week from prominent Republicans, including some of President Donald Trump’s supporters, about Trump’s accusations that the FBI placed a spy in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, who led the House Benghazi charge against Hillary Clinton, was all over the airwaves this week giving the FBI his backing and rebutting Trump. And even Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano and law professor Alan Dershowitz, both loyal Trump supporters, say the “Spygate” thrust doesn’t seem to hold much water.

But none of this is changing Rep. Lee Zeldin’s push for a second special counsel to investigate the special counsel, specifically whether the probe of Russian meddling in Trump’s campaign was based on valid information.

In an email exchange, Zeldin said that the discrediting of Trump’s spy theory hasn’t changed his mind about a second special counsel. “The way this Trump-Russia collusion investigation was launched, continued, and expanded was filled with issues that I have a serious problem with,” he said.

His resolution asking for the special counsel includes 57 specific complaints in and around the investigation into Trump’s campaign and FBI and Department of Justice conduct toward Hillary Clinton, of which the allegation of an spy planted in Trump’s campaign was just one.

It now has 30 co-sponsors.

Lane Filler