NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A federal judge made a rare appearance Tuesday as a witness in a former New York City councilman’s bid for a new trial.

U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts was called as a witness at a hearing Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan.

The testimony came after a brother and a close friend of ex-councilman Larry Seabrook claimed they were kicked out of the courtroom during jury selection at his criminal trial.

The judge testified that she told spectators to give up their seats for a pool of prospective jurors at the jury selection. But she said she never asked them to leave the courtroom. She said she knew it would be unconstitutional to exclude the public.

Seabrook is serving five years in prison for misappropriating money. He was convicted of steering more than $2 million in taxpayer dollars to shady non-profit organizations he founded.

Seabrook was convicted in 2012 on nine of 12 felony counts last summer in Manhattan federal court. The conviction came a year after a different jury deadlocked on the fraud charges against him.

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