The New York Mets' owners want to bring in Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax and legal legend Robert M. Morgenthau, the former Manhattan District Attorney, as witnesses in the trial next week for their $300 million court battle with the Bernard Madoff trustee.
Lawyers for Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz filed papers in federal court in Manhattan late Monday describing how Koufax, Morgenthau and other witnesses will be crucial in beating back the claim by trustee Irving Picard that the team owners showed "willful blindness" to Madoff's scheme.
Picard already has won an order that the Wilpons and their partners have to fork over $83 million in Madoff profits and is going to trial to claw back more than $300 million in original investments given to Madoff.
But the Wilpons contend that they wouldn't have told friends like Koufax and Morgenthau that Madoff was a safe investment if they actually knew he was a fraud.
Koufax, the 1960s' Los Angeles Dodgers ace, went to Lafayette High School in Brooklyn with Wilpon, and they became lifelong friends. Morgenthau, who was chairman of the board of the Police Athletic League, invested with Madoff the bulk of a $500,000 gift to the organization from Wilpon in 2006.
Judge Jed Rakoff is expected to decide Monday, when the trial is scheduled to begin, if he will allow the testimony over the trustee's opposition.
If he testifies, Morgenthau would describe how he put the PAL money into a Madoff account after Wilpon said it was "safe," according to the court papers.
Koufax would testify that he opened an account with Madoff at Wilpon's suggestion, court documents stated.
Officials at PAL and Koufax didn't return calls for comment. Morgenthau, through an aide, declined to comment.
Another potential witness is Michael Dowling, president of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, who would testify that Katz suggested his donation to the institution be put in a Madoff account for safekeeping until needed, the papers said.
David Sheehan, counsel for Picard, opposes allowing Koufax, Morgenthau and Dowling as witnesses, arguing in court filings that their testimony would be irrelevant character evidence designed to show that the Wilpons and Katz are "good" because they associate with good people.