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Sandy Annabi's bid to nix guilty verdict has no merit, feds say

Sandy Annabi leaves federal court. She was convicted

Sandy Annabi leaves federal court. She was convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan on March 29, of conspiring with the head of the Republican Party in Yonkers, Zehy Jereis, 40, to sell her council vote on development projects in the city, including the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill project. Photo Credit: News 12 Westchester

An avalanche of evidence justified the public corruption convictions of former Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi and her co-defendant former GOP boss Zehy Jereis, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

"The jury's verdict was supported by overwhelming evidence," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Perry Carbone and Jason P.W. Halperin wrote Thursday in court papers filed in Manhattan. "The jury drew from the uncontested facts and all the other evidence permissible and fair inferences that the defendants were guilty."

Annabi, 41, and Jereis, 40, asked U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon last month to throw out their public corruption convictions or give them new trials, saying the jury that convicted them did not have enough proof to find them guilty. There is no set timetable for McMahon to rule on the request.

Annabi and former Yonkers Republican Party boss Jereis were convicted of bribery and conspiracy charges March 29 after a six-week trial in federal court in Manhattan.

They are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 4.

Annabi and Jereis want that sentencing scrapped and at least a new jury seated to hear the case again.

Annabi, a former four-term Democratic council member and leader of the party's council majority, said federal prosecutors presented no evidence of "a meeting of the minds" between Jereis and Annabi to sell her vote on development projects -- including the controversial $600 million Ridge Hill plan.

Carbone and Halperin said Annabi and Jereis' arguments had no merit.

"The most basic flaw in the defendants' motion is how little attention they pay to the jury's verdict," the prosecutors wrote. "They press their claims as if they were still arguing to the jury, as if there had been no verdicts of guilty."

Federal prosecutors said Jereis paid Annabi more than $170,000 in gifts and cash between 2002 and 2008 to control her vote when it benefited him.

Annabi's lawyer Edward Sapone, scoffed at that claim.

"That theory, respectfully, is a fantasy," Sapone wrote in court papers. "To infer a corrupt agreement from payment alone goes beyond circumstantial evidence ... and instead constitutes speculation."

Jereis' lawyer Anthony Siano claimed that federal prosecutors failed to meet their obligations to disclose before the trial that prosecution witnesses -- including turncoat lawyer Anthony Mangone -- told different stories about a bribe that Jereis was convicted of paying Annabi to garner her city council vote.

Mangone, who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, said he paid a bribe to Jereis in 2006 to give to Annabi. That bribe was paid on behalf of father-and-son Yonkers developers, Antonio and Franco Milio, who also testified. The developers were seeking Annabi's vote to approve a rehabilitation project in her district involving the shuttered Longfellow School.

Federal prosecutors said they turned over to the defense every piece of evidence they were required to under the law.

"The history of this case both before and during trial shows that the government satisfied -- and easily exceeded -- its disclosure obligations, constantly erring on the side of disclosure," prosecutors said. Jereis knew well in advance of trial about inconsistencies in witness accounts of the bribes, they wrote.

A $550,000 Yonkers home Annabi bought with the help of $10,000 in bribe money from Jereis is in foreclosure proceedings. Annabi's parents live in the three-bedroom house on Bacon Place.

In an interview with Newsday published in May, Annabi said the verdict was a "complete shock" because she was "not guilty of any counts."

Mangone pleaded guilty in November 2010 to bribery and tax charges connected to the bribes. The charges against Annabi and Jereis included conspiracy and bribery. Annabi also was convicted of mortgage fraud.

Annabi faces more than 160 years in federal prison by statute, though sentencing guidelines likely will call for no more than 15 years behind bars. Jereis faces a maximum of 65 years.

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