Monday, March 26, 2012

As jury ponders Yonkers corruption trial, flashbacks: Annabi, who didn't testify, before the indictment called co-defendant Jereis "a great man"; Ratner at groundbreaking saluted "courage" of officials who backed project

So, the jury in the federal corruption case involving former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi and her political mentor (and former Yonkers GOP Chairman) Zehy Jereis continues its deliberations today, after taking Friday off.

The Westchester-based Journal News, which has been following the trial closely, this weekend published In Yonkers corruption trial, feds bet big on Mangone's history, a look at the vulnerable prosecution witness Anthony Mangone, an admitted liar and convicted felon hoping to get a break on his sentencing.

The implication: if Annabi and Jereis survive the corruption charges (Annabi also faces tax and mortgage fraud charges), it may be because Mangone was unreliable.

The Annabi-Jereis connection

One enduring mystery regarding the trial concerns the nature of the relationship between Annabi and Jereis. In court, Jereis claimed he was infatuated with Annabi, thus explaining the $174,000 in gifts over seven years.

Other political figures in Yonkers, as well as a former close friend of Annabi's, said there was nothing romantic to the relationship. Prosecutors scoffed at the claims, arguing the money was aimed to keep Annabi on a string to vote as Jereis wanted.

Annabi didn't testify, perhaps because there was too much to bring up.

In a 3/25/07 article headlined Controversy dogs Yonkers GOP chairman, published before any indictments but after news of the investigation surfaced, the newspaper found Jereis unwilling to talk, but did quote Annabi:
But Yonkers Councilwoman Sandy Annabi, a distant cousin of Jereis', called the married father of two young children "a great man."

"We have a very close relationship. Very close," she said.
Perhaps even more dicey for her to explain than the "close relationship" would be Jereis's "greatness."

Even if the jury decides that prosecutors haven't proven a crime, the defendants do not come off clean.

The groundbreaking press conference

Also worth noting is a video of the November 2007 project groundbreaking shot by Martin McGloin. Go to the 7:45 mark and listen to Bruce Ratner.



"A project of this magnitude, with the back and forth on both sides, often does take a long time," Ratner declares. "one of the great things about this country is the fact that we do have discussions on both sides of an issue. And this had discussions on both sides of an issue."

He then went on to salute the promise of jobs and tax revenues.

"It took real courage by our elected officials, by our community groups, by all the people in this room, to stand up for this project," Ratner continued. "That is not an easy thing. It's very easy to say, I don't want development and I will leave things the way they are."

Actually, the room was full of city and county elected officials and former officials--the local establishment.

"But part of progress is having the courage, and all the people--" he turned to gesture to the audience--"sitting right here have had it. All of you in the room have had. Every single person here has in some way contributed to this project."

Of the five City Council members who voted for the project, only one was absent: Sandy Annabi. Also apparently absent--or, at least, not saluted from the podium--was Zehy Jereis.

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