The corruption and bribery charges against Sandy Annabi, former Yonkers City Councilwoman, and Zehy Jereis, former Yonkers GOP Chairman, were met with lust for blood by some, and questioned as being circumstantial by others. Either way, the prosecution, the United States of America, was expected to have all guns blazing in the case that came to rest yesterday (March 21, 2012), in the courtroom presided over by the Hon. Colleen McMahon, District Judge, after five weeks of testimony. The jury was charged with eleven total counts, which were at times shared allegations by both defendants, and others that were accusative of one, but not the other. Judge McMahon’s charge would consume three hours in studied and meticulous expression of the law to the jury. The task before the jury of twelve and four alternates is daunting. The charges are complex, and at times not easily contemplated. Many requests for further explanation are likely to ensue in the coming days of deliberation. While the jury is sequestered behind closed doors, we can consider some issues that question the value of this case and others that may likely follow in the wake of the government’s effort to excise corruption and bribery from governance and politics.
The heart of the government’s contention is that there was no reciprocal affection between Ms Annabi and Mr Jereis. When forensic computer expert Shlomo Koenig took the stand earlier this week he would explain that FBI agents who were first to scrutinize the hard drive of Mr Jereis’ computer, had clumsily destroyed evidence that would have left a trail for Mr Koenig to have followed to a conclusion of who, when, and where, had tampered with the said emails. Instead, he was left to contemplate one scenario or another, all circumstantial. The government believed that was as far as they needed to go. Their effort was seemingly “good enough!”
One must ask why the government did not get a subpoena from a federal judge to grant it permission to retrieve all the email correspondence between Mr Jereis and Ms Annabi from AOL, the email server and service to which both defendants have subscribed. Subpoena of AOL for the records of the allegedly unrequited love attested to by Mr Jereis, and to which his legal counsel, Anthony Siano asserted, was a logical next step that the government did not take. Why?
Also to be questioned is the assertion made by Mr Jereis when he stated he and Ms Annabi did not engage in sexual intercourse. Yet in the next breath, Mr Jereis noted that there was however “sexual contact.” Was Mr Jereis’ mention of “sexual contact” the voice of the male ego speaking or reminiscent of conduct described by William Jefferson Clinton, former U.S. President, in defining his term of “sexual conduct” over a decade ago?
When the government had the opportunity to cross examine Mr Jereis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin, made mention of Mr Jereis’ claim of his earlier testimony in which he made mention there was no “sexual contact” between Ms Annabi and himself, but he noted the that there was “sexual contact.” Mr Halperin during his question of Mr Jereis divulged he did not want a definition for the term, “sexual contact.” Mr Halperin moved on. At issue here is why Mr Halperin did not demand Mr Jereis define the term “sexual conduct.” Had he done so, Mr Halperin could have proven “quid pro quo,” that is, “something for another,” or money and other gifts for “sexual contact,” but Mr Halperin did not.
When FBI Agent Michael Mazucca took the stand, he was asked if/when he was aware that both Antonio and Franco Milio, the owners of Milio Management – Yonkers developers who were at one time engaged in seeking designation as master developers for the Longfellow/Walgreens project – were vacationing in Mexico when Anthony Mangone, a government witness surrounded by allegations of bribery and corruption, claims that he received $30,000 in cash from the Milio’s for the purpose of bribing Ms Annabi to approve the Milio’s master developer status designation for the Longfellow/Walgreens project.
Agent Mazucca acknowledged he had indeed learned from defendant testimony that Homeland Security documents had proven Antonio and Franco Milio were in Mexico at the time Mr Mangone claimed he received cash from them. Mr Siano questioned Agent Mazucca, asking if upon learning of the fact garnered from Homeland Security records, Agent Mazzuca had questioned Mr Mangone about the veracity of his testimony to the FBI after Mr Mangone signed an agreement accepting a deal with the government to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth? Agent Manzucca was reluctant to offer his contact with Mr Mangone at first, but with the slightest verbal nudge, Mr Siano had Agent Manzucca admit that he had contacted Mr Mangone, but as Agent Manzucca emphasized, it was on another matter. It was not as suggested by Mr Siano with regard to Mr Mangone perjuring himself once again in testimony before the august chambers of a court.
What is striking about this exchange is that an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not questioned its own witness as to the veracity of its claim when Homeland Security had proven Mr Mangone’s testimony to be false. Why? Worse still, the government chose to be silent on this issue for over a week’s time perhaps in the hope that the issue would not rear itself again. Bad move. Mr Siano had no lapse in focusing attention on this issue again.
One must question if the government would have been willing to imprison the defendants on a falsehood of fact despite their becoming knowledgeable of the fact that put into question the veracity of their star witness, Anthony Mangone, about whom much of their case revolves.
The largesse of gifts and loans bestowed upon Ms Annabi by Mr Jereis from 2001 to 2008 is said to have surpassed $200,000. The government asserts this interchange was imposed by Mr Jereis solely for the purpose of exacting a political favor, that is, a vote for, or any action required, to impact the political demeanor or conclusion over which Ms Annabi would have purview. The government’s assertion is that Ms Annabi, when she voted contrary to previous votes or changed her demeanor or tone over any specific project, is sufficient to prove she was Mr Jereis’ political puppet. Mr Jereis advises he only wanted her “body,” and did not seek to malign or coerce her vote. Mr Jereis asserts he had no influence on her votes.
The destination and purpose of the money, gifts and loans to and through Ms Annabi lack proof or purpose in the conclusion offered by the government. The government asserts they have backtracked and returned to the origins of the financial paradigm before them. In reality there is another more credible scenario that can be drawn from the money, gifts and loans funneled as they were. The government has proven it is unaware of the various methodologies to launder funds. Perhaps the Milio’s can afford them lessons worthy of their knowing.
When Mr Kevin Cacace, president of the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce, attests that he hired Mr Jereis at the behest Nick Spano, expecting to receive a grant from then Senator Nick Spano to pay for Mr Jereis’ services, neither Mr Cacace, nor former Yonkers Mayor and present Yonkers Chamber of Commerce Board Director Angelo Martinelli complained about taking on Mr Jereis. They chose to complain before the court for not receiving a grant to pay for Mr Jereis. Mssrs Cacace and Martinelli never uttered a complaint before their day in in a courtroom to which they were subpoenaed. Are they attempting to rewrite the annals of history as they would like it remembered? Mr Cacace is driven by agenda, Mr Martinelli is one of the puppet masters. Neither is credible. They have not told the truth.
Former Yonkers City Councilman Dennis Robertson attests that he knew many things about Mr Jereis, Ms Annabi, among others, in Yonkers government. His testimony is also suspect because he never wrote or spoke to the so-called wrongdoings of others. He has his own issues and contracts to be concerned about. He is not a credible witness. He is a Democratic Party operative that worked both sides of the aisle then, and continues to do so to this day.
Former Mayor Phil Amicone was not called to testify, why not? The buck stopped at his office. Why was Nick Spano not asked to testify before the court?
Former Yonkers City Councilwoman Dee Barbato and Councilman John Murtagh, Esq., are not credible witnesses. Mr Lunney, a former law partner of Mr Murtagh, now retired, asserted under oath that he had to undergo a three year effort to dissolve his and Mr Murtagh’s legal relationship because Mr Lunney asserts Mr Murtagh’s conduct was anathema to the demands and protocol of the law with regard to client funds, among other concerns.
Ms Barbato has been fork-tongued over many issues, including Ridge Hill, in which she espoused one thing, but did something else. Under her watch she did not mitigate the traffic issues, or much of anything else. She never walked the walk, but she was good talking the talk. Simply the best, Dee Barbato. None of these characters are credible. Neither Mr Murtagh nor Ms Barbato spoke to the issues about which they would ever move the city toward remedy and mitigation. More talk. They used their office to further themselves with contracts, and patronage for themselves and relatives. They were and are part of the problem.
Senator Joe Libous was not called to testify to corroborate the assertion made by Anthony Mangone that the senator demanded Mr Mangone’s law firm hire his son Matt Libous, Esq., as legal counsel to the tune of $150,000 per annum plus the lease of a Land Rover SUV nor further the accusation that Senator Libous suggested Mr Mangone bill a dummy corporation to the tune of $50,000 per annum to lighten the financial burden of employing his son Matt. Why?
Should Mr Jereis and Ms Annabi be judged deserving of imprisonment, by a jury of their peers, the Yonkers cabal of not having the “truth” revealed by keeping mum about it, will have saved their skin once again. They will have won. The City of Yonkers will have again lost to the connivance of those who still pull the strings of the circus of deceit by deflecting attention from the issues that matter to the pandering escapades and crotch shots that tickle the fancy of those who continue to maintain a veil of secrecy of the other Yonkers, to which Yonkersites are not permitted access, and to which Yonkersites are thereby unaware and worse still, are incredulous, that anyone should or would suggest otherwise. Witness the response of former Mayor Amicone a partner to the Brio Restaurant franchise that opened over the past two weeks in Ridge Hill.
Mr Jereis and Ms Annabi are no more than pawns in an opaque tapestry of deceit meant only to beguile Yonkersites and those who dare look within its borders in their feeble attempt to find decorum in governance, law, and civility.