Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Witness: Forest City Ratner's consulting contract with Jereis was under discussion right around time of Annabi vote, not a month or two later, as developer's reps testified

Did Forest City Ratner really wait two months after Yonkers City Council member Sandy Annabi voted to green-light the developer's Ridge Hill project to send Zehy Jereis, who helped wangle Annabi's vote, a consulting contract for an essentially no-show job?

Testimony in the federal corruption trial yesterday suggested an alternative sequence, in which the developer's negotiations with Jereis occurred far closer to Annabi's vote.

FCR testimony: no sooner than August

Previously, in 2/23/12 testimony, Forest City executive Scott Cantone acknowledged that, after Jereis requested a job in June 2006 from the developer, they put him off, worried it would look bad before the 7/11/06 vote.

The timing wasn't fully explained, but an 8/11/06 email from Cantone to a colleague, John Cournoyer, suggested some level of urgency: "What are we doing? I need to get Zehy something fast."

According to Cantone's testimony, on 9/19/06, Jereis was sent a one-year, $5,000-a-month consulting agreement, which--for reasons that weren't explained--was not returned until 10/10/06. The contract had been backdated to the beginning of August.

Later testimony confirmed that Jereis simultaneously filed invoices to be paid for August and September. (Ultimately, he was paid for only three months.)

Mangone: key witness

Despite testimony from Forest City officials, another witness in the ongoing trial of Annabi and Jereis testified yesterday that the consulting agreement was available right around the time of Annabi's 7/11/06 vote. (Update: Annabi's lawyer, in closing arguments, called this a lie; no corroborating evidence was ever raised.)

Anthony Mangone, a disbarred attorney, has already pleaded guilty to tax and bribery charges in connection with the Yonkers case, notably events relating not to the Ridge Hill project but to the other project at issue, Milio Management's Longfellow project.

But as a politically connected lawyer and protege of Senator-turned-lobbyist Nick Spano, who worked for Forest City, Mangone had knowledge of both efforts.

Defense lawyers have challenged Mangone repeatedly on his past record of lying under oath and the discrepancy between statements he made to investigators in 2008, when news of the federal probe surfaced, and 2010, after the indictments.

Mangone: it happened around July vote

And while Mangone was fuzzy yesterday on exactly when Jereis had a consulting agreement from Forest City to examine, that fuzziness covered a fairly narrow range.

"Do you recall telling the government you had reviewed Mr. Jereis's consulting agreement with Forest City Ratner?" asked Jereis's attorney, Anthony Siano, getting confirmation from the witness.

Mangone, continued Siano, had told the government he had reviewed the agreement before the vote.

Jereis said he didn't recall exactly when it happened.

Siano pressed him on the precise time Mangone cited in a 2010 interview he'd had with the FBI.

Mangone said it could have been before or after the vote.

Siano suggested--as he had several times--that Mangone, a witness whose ethics have already been called into question, was contradicting the FBI. He asked for specifics.

"I don't recall, sir," responded Mangone.

"When was it?" Siano asked.

"Sometime very close [to the vote]," Mangone responded.

Siano, pointing out that Mangone had been a very unreliable witness over the years, asked if he was being truthful.

Yes, responded Mangone.

(How to square the Mangone and Cantone testimony? Well, if both were testifying truthfully, it could be that Cantone focused his testimony on the final version of the contract, and was not asked specifically about a draft version.)

Most of Mangone's testimony regarded Longfellow, as well as his own past activities and that of his law firm. (See also coverage in City and State and the Journal News.)

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