National News

Former Oyster Bay Supervisor Found Not Guilty of All Charges

Posted May 24, 2018 8:39 p.m. EDT

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — Jurors on Long Island delivered a partial verdict Thursday in a political corruption trial of three defendants, acquitting John Venditto, the former supervisor of the town of Oyster Bay, New York, on charges of conspiracy, bribery, fraud, making false statements and obstructing justice.

But jurors were unable to reach a verdict before the end of the day on charges against the former Nassau County executive, Edward Mangano, and his wife, Linda Mangano.

All of the charges arose from what prosecutors described as a bold influence-peddling scheme in which Venditto and Edward Mangano, both Republicans, helped a restaurateur obtain millions of dollars in loans backed by Oyster Bay.

Edward Mangano was accused, in addition, of helping the restaurateur, Harendra Singh, obtain county contracts and was indicted on charges of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and extortion. Linda Mangano, who prosecutors said accepted a “no show” job from Singh, was indicted on charges of making false statements and obstructing justice.

Jurors entered the courtroom in U.S. District Court in Central Islip at about 1 p.m. after sending a note to Judge Joan Azrack that read: “We have reached a partial verdict.”

As the foreman declared that the jury had found Venditto not guilty on all charges, the defendant showed little emotion, resting his chin on a clenched fist. But in the gallery Venditto’s wife, Christine, wept and his son, Michael, a former state senator, closed his eyes and held a single finger in the air, mouthing thanks.

Outside the courthouse, Venditto called the trial an “educational experience,” but also suggested that he had been damaged by the charges.

“Where do I go after what’s been done to my reputation, what’s been done to my family’s reputation?” he asked.

Venditto, who was elected in 1997 as supervisor of Oyster Bay, was indicted in late 2016, along with his co-defendants, after an investigation into events that had begun years earlier.

In 2010, Singh began seeking millions of dollars in loans for improvements to two businesses he ran at properties that Oyster Bay owned: a concession stand at Tobay Beach, and a restaurant and catering facility called the Woodlands. Prosecutors said Venditto agreed that Oyster Bay would guarantee Singh’s loans, but the town backed off after a lawyer told them that would violate New York state law.

Soon after, though, the government said, Edward Mangano’s former firm, Rivkin Radler, was “hired to craft a way to say ‘yes'” to backing the loans. The next day, prosecutors said, Linda Mangano received her first paycheck for what they termed a “sham” job with Singh. Prosecutors said that Edward Mangano used his clout to “advise and pressure” Venditto to go along with the scheme.

Singh ended up receiving more than $20 million in loans, all backed by Oyster Bay. In return, prosecutors said, he gave Edward Mangano expensive chairs, a luxury watch and subsidized vacations. Venditto was said to have received free use of office space and $11,000 worth of free limousine rides.

Venditto’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, told jurors during closing arguments that simply accepting something of value did not amount to bribery. That appeared to be a reference to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the conviction of former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who prosecutors said had used his office to help a businessman who had given him and his wife luxury products, loans and vacations.

That decision narrowed the definition of what can be the basis of a public corruption case, saying that only formal government actions count, and that routine political courtesies, such as arranging meetings, do not.

Agnifilo also attacked the government’s case as overblown, terming it “ridiculous” and saying at one point that prosecutors had decided, in effect, “to make a pizza with a lot of toppings and throw it at the wall” to see what sticks.

But he reserved his most vehement attacks for Singh, likening him to an “uninvited guest” who served strange food that required a “strong stomach” and finally labeling him a “sociopath.”

Before delivering their verdict on Venditto, jurors had told Azrack in a note that they were unanimous on one defendant and “split” on the two others.

After Venditto was pronounced not guilty, the judge directed the jurors to turn their attention back to the Manganos, saying: “You may return to the jury room to continue your deliberations.”

Jurors will return to continue deliberations on Friday.