CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jury selection gets underway Monday in the corruption trial of former Nassau County executive Ed Mangano.
Mangano and his wife Linda will be on trial in Central Islip along with John Venditto, a former Oyster Bay town supervisor. All three have pleaded not guilty to an indictment alleging extortion, bribery and more.
“America is the greatest country in the world,” Mangano said back in October of 2016. “I will have the opportunity to present evidence that rebukes this nonsense.”
The indictment charges that Mangano and Venditto received bribes and kickbacks to help a Long Island businessman, Harendra Singh, obtain guaranteed loans.
Linda Mangano, prosecutors said, was given a $100,000-a-year, no-show job at one of the Singh’s restaurants, enabling her to make $450,000 while doing little besides tasting food. She was charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements for allegedly lying about the job to federal investigators.
Ed Mangano is also accused of accepting vacations and other gifts in exchange for his influence. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The Manganos said they had a two-decade personal friendship with Singh, long before Mangano was elected, and that any gifts or favors between the families had nothing to do with his office.
“The Mangano family and the Singh family regularly interacted and socialized together,” the lawyers wrote.
Venditto’s attorney has called the charges underwhelming.
The case, announced publicly in 2016, is one in a string that federal prosecutors in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Albany have made against powerful politicians.
“Sadly, we are again confronted by public officials who used their position of trust,” U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said in October of 2016. “In this case, the highest ranking officials in Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay for their own corrupt benefit.”
Prior to the trial’s start, Mangano’s lawyers unsuccessfully claimed selective prosecution.
Federal investigators had also looked into payments that Singh had made to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
As part of his own criminal case, Singh pleaded guilty to paying bribes to the mayor, in the form of campaign contributions, in an attempt to resolve a dispute with the city over his restaurant lease.
De Blasio was not prosecuted. He has denied taking any bribes and suggested Singh pleaded guilty only because he was desperate to get leniency for other corrupt acts.
In court papers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Gatz said the two cases were different, partly because Mangano was accused of enriching himself personally, not simply accepting campaign cash.
Lawyers for Mangano say they won’t pursue the issue at trial, but they requested broad latitude to ask Singh about his illegal conduct with de Blasio and his efforts to obtain a benefit by cooperating against the mayor.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)