National News

Mangano Corruption Trial Ends in Mistrial on Long Island

Posted May 31, 2018 11:07 p.m. EDT

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — A federal judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the corruption case of Edward Mangano, the former Nassau County executive, who had been accused of accepting bribes from a restaurateur in return for help in obtaining government contracts and millions of dollars in loans.

The trial came to an end with little explanation after the foreman told the court in a note that he could not continue.

“I can no longer carry out my duties as a juror,” wrote the foreman, Marc Tambassopoulos. “I wish to be excused.”

The judge, Joan Azrack, of U.S. District Court here, said she would soon set a new trial date.

“It is, you know, truly a sentence in and of itself, a trial,” Mangano said outside the courthouse, adding, “It is emotionally draining.”

Federal prosecutors had argued that the restaurateur, Harendra Singh, provided Mangano, 56, with a stream of gifts, including expensive chairs, a luxury watch and subsidized vacations.

Singh, who had pleaded guilty to bribery and was a witness for the government, also gave Mangano’s wife, Linda Mangano, 54, what prosecutors called a “no-show” job.

Last week, the jury acquitted the former Oyster Bay supervisor, John Venditto, who had been on trial along with the Manganos, on all the charges he had faced. They continued weighing the evidence against Mangano, who was the county’s top elected official for eight years.

One juror was replaced by an alternate Tuesday after telling the judge she was ill. A defense lawyer said the departing juror had described a “toxic environment” during deliberations.

Tambassopoulos said he had told the judge he wanted to stop serving because a small number of jurors had been unwilling to budge from positions favoring conviction or acquittal.

He said he had been unwilling to convict Linda Mangano of making false statements because the government had not produced quotes. And, he added, he believed that Singh had provided gifts to Edward Mangano purely out of friendship.

“To me it’s just a gift, a birthday gift,” he said. “How are you going to say that’s a bribe?”

Mangano, a Republican, once wielded considerable power. He surprised many by narrowly defeating the incumbent executive, Thomas Suozzi, in 2009 while running on the Republican and Tax Revolt Party lines. Four years later, he was re-elected.

The mistrial, coming after a 10-week trial that included 60 witnesses, is a blow to prosecutors and the latest indication of how a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2016 may be affecting public corruption cases. That year the court overturned the bribery conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who prosecutors said had used his office to help a businessman who gave him and his wife luxury products, loans and vacations.

The decision narrowed the basis for such prosecutions, ruling that only formal government actions count and that routine political courtesies, like arranging meetings, do not.

But prosecutors in the Mangano trial outlined activities that appeared to go far beyond the routine. Central to it all was Singh, who owned about 30 businesses, including two at properties owned by Oyster Bay: a concession stand at Tobay Beach and a restaurant and catering facility called the Woodlands.

Beginning in 2010, prosecutors said, Singh sought loans that eventually totaled more than $20 million. To obtain financing, they said, he turned to Mangano, who persuaded Venditto to arrange for Oyster Bay to back the loans. A lawyer for the town had warned that a guarantee would violate New York state law, so lawyers from Mangano’s former firm, Rivkin Radler, were hired to find a way to make the arrangement work, prosecutors said.

In addition to helping Singh obtain loans, prosecutors said, Mangano helped him receive contracts to provide bread to the county jail and food for emergency workers after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Prosecutors said that in return, Singh gave Mangano a massage chair and arranged for a $7,300 Panerai Luminor watch to be delivered to Mangano’s home as a birthday present for his son. Mangano and his family also took trips to Turks and Caicos and Florida’s Amelia Island that prosecutors said were mostly paid for by the restaurateur.

Singh, 58, was a familiar figure around Oyster Bay. He drove a Maserati and used an email address that identified him as “the restaurant mogul.” He also donated to a range of politicians.

Among them was Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City. At one point during the trial, Singh testified that he steered tens of thousands of dollars to de Blasio’s campaigns to gain better lease terms for a restaurant on city property. De Blasio has denied any wrongdoing, and federal investigators brought no charges against the mayor, saying he had not received any personal gifts from the restaurateur.

During closing arguments, lawyers for Edward and Linda Mangano repeatedly attacked Singh, calling him a habitual liar and comparing the prosecution to one that might take place in North Korea. Prosecutors responded by calling the defense assertions “classic misdirection.”

Jurors indicated early on that they were at loggerheads. They sent notes on their second and third days of deliberation saying they could not agree on “certain items.”

The judge instructed the jury to begin deliberations anew after replacing Juror No. 5 with an alternate, but they were still unable to reach a consensus.