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July 27, 2016
Nonetheless No Verdict In Seabrook’s Trial After Jury’s 5th Day Of Deliberation
Jurors in the bribery case towards former Correction Officers Benevolent Affiliation President Norman Seabrook completed their fifth day of deliberations with no verdict Nov. 15, however for the primary time targeted on the testimony of the man who succeeded him as the pinnacle of the union, Elias Husamudeen.
Not long after they started efforts to break what they described a day earlier as a deadlock among them, they sent a notice to U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. requesting a transcript of Mr. Husamudeen’s testimony, as well as a replica of a Feb. 10, 2014 letter written by a lawyer for COBA, Howard Wien, regarding the board’s plan to invest $10 million of members’ annuity money in a hedge fund run by Mr. Seabrook’s co-defendant, Murray Huberfeld. Mr. Wien had outlined several concerns connected with such an funding, amongst them the fact that at the time, no different municipal union had placed investments with a hedge fund, which tends to offer doubtlessly greater returns but additionally comes with greater dangers.
Unaware of $5M Add-On
As the first witness in a trial that started Oct. 24, Mr. Husamudeen testified that he had never seen the letter. He additionally mentioned that after the annuity-fund board members agreed to an initial $10-million funding with Platinum Partners, he became conscious that Mr. Seabrook subsequently invested another $5 million with the firm, utilizing the union’s working account, solely as a result of COBA’s treasurer, Mike Maiello, was contacted by somebody at its financial institution regarding the verify.
Mr. Husamudeen stated that when he confronted Mr. Seabrook about why he made that investment with out consulting other union officials, the one response he acquired was, “It’s getting cash.”
Till Wednesday’s court docket session, jurors had seemed centered primarily on the government’s key witness, Jona Rechnitz, who had testified that he delivered $60,000 in cash to Mr. Seabrook on behalf of Mr. Huberfeld in December 2014. Mr. Rechnitz’s credibility had been badly broken, nevertheless, by powerful cross-examination by Mr. Seabrook’s attorney—who in his summation to the jury Nov. 7 questioned whether the $60,000 bribe had even taken place.
That claim by Paul Shechtman was consistent together with his technique from the very starting of the case: to attack the credibility of Mr. Rechnitz, who was additionally implicated in a sequence of questionable ventures that included allegedly bribing two police commanders who are scheduled to go on trial subsequent yr and raising close to $200,000 to further Mayor de Blasio’s political pursuits in return for entry to him to realize favorable remedy in his dealings with town.
No Protection Witnesses
It was a measure of the success that Mr. Shechtman and Henry Mazurek, the lawyer for Mr. Seabrook’s co-defendant, Murray Huberfeld, had in exposing Mr. Rechnitz’s proclivity for lying to just about everybody with whom he had enterprise dealings and deceiving friends and relations that they opted to not name any witnesses after prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office rested their case Nov. 6.
In addition to his dealings with high police commanders—the most-distinguished of whom, former Chief of Department Philip Banks III, was not criminally charged—and the Mayor, Mr. Rechnitz admitted being concerned in two ventures that was Ponzi schemes. He additionally acknowledged lying to Mr. Seabrook about having once owned two landmark buildings near COBA’s Broad St. headquarters and pretending that he owned a yacht he rented to go sailing with him. Mr. Shechtman known as him “a consummate con man” throughout his summation to the jury and described him as “a fella who can’t even inform the reality about his lies.”
Prosecutors emphasized to the jury of their closing statements that Mr. Rechnitz, who hoped to keep away from a jail sentence by means of his cooperation with the government after admitting to fraudulent activities that could earn him 20 years in Federal prison, had some of his testimony regarding the $60,000 bribe to Mr. Seabrook in return for the union chief investing $20 million in COBA monies with Platinum Partners—the hedge fund run by Mr. Huberfeld—corroborated by other sources.
“If this were a morality contest, he wouldn’t be allowed to take part,” Assistant U.S. Legal professional Russell Capone instructed the jurors regarding his key witness in a summation following Mr. Shechtman’s scathing dissertation on Mr. Rechnitz’s character.
Cites COBA’s Concerns
But, he reminded them, they’d heard testimony regarding a letter sent by a union lawyer, Howard Wien, laying out several considerations he had about investing cash in a hedge fund—among them that no other union annuity fund had performed so at the time in early 2014 when COBA was considering the proposal by Platinum Companions. He noted that Elias Husamudeen, who worked intently with Mr. Seabrook throughout the latter gentleman’s 21-yr tenure as COBA president and stepped into that job after the indictment that led the Correction Department to suspend the union leader, rendering him ineligible to remain in that position, had described Mr. Seabrook as being secretive throughout a lot of the funding course of.
Mr. Husamudeen as the leadoff witness within the trial had described finding out while at the Puerto Rican Day Parade that June that Mr. Seabrook—after the board authorized an initial $10-million investment in Platinum Partners—had subsequently invested $5 million from the union’s working account. That discovery, he informed jurors, occurred solely because COBA Treasurer Mike Maiello received a call from the union’s financial institution informing him of the transaction.
Mr. Husamudeen recalled angrily confronting Mr. Seabrook, demanding, “What the [bleep] is your drawback,” and being instructed in response, “It’s making money,” with no further explanation.
‘Why So Keen ’
Mr. Capone requested the jurors to consider, “Why was this union boss so eager, so reckless about this funding Why was he so secretive with other board members ”
Mr. Rechnitz had testified that during a quick trip within the Dominican Republic in December 2013, the place the two men had been also accompanied by Chief Banks, the COBA president while drinking closely had said that it was “time that Norman Seabrook got paid.”
Lower than per week later, prosecutor Kan Nawaday reminded the jurors, Mr. Seabrook met with Mr. Huberfeld, and within two weeks a pitch was made by Platinum Companions for the union to take a position an preliminary $10 million in the hedge fund.
On the time, prosecutors instructed the jury, the firm was struggling, citing an e-mail from its chief funding officer in mid-2013 stating that traders had been withdrawing considerably extra money from the fund than it was receiving in new capital and describing the state of affairs as “code pink.”
Returns Were Lagging
While Mr. Shechtman noted that Platinum Partners had been performing well, with an 18-percent annual fee of return in the decade earlier than COBA made its investments, prosecutors noted that two of its weakest years had are available 2012 and 2013, when the average return was 9.5 p.c. The fund final year filed for bankruptcy safety, and last December its remaining principals, after Mr. Huberfeld was criminally charged, were indicted for allegedly running it like a Ponzi scheme.
Mr. Rechnitz testified that he originally told Mr. Seabrook that in return for the $20-million COBA investment, he might expect to receive $100,000 from Mr. Huberfeld by the end of 2014. But when he met with the union chief on Dec. Eleven that year, he stated he gave him a Ferragamo bag containing simply $60,000. When Mr. Seabrook complained that it was less than he had been expecting, Mr. Rechnitz instructed the jury he responded that beginning in 2015 he could be guaranteed $100,000 a year as long as COBA maintained the funding, and that funds would be unfold out on a monthly basis.
In his summation, Mr. Shechtman identified that by the start of that yr, Mr. Rechnitz’s phone was being wiretapped by the FBI, yet no conversations had been recorded by which Mr. Seabrook was asking about additional payments. And when he visited Mr. Huberfeld’s workplace to give him a $1,000 money gift for his first grandchild, the lawyer noted, he made no inquiries about why he had been shortchanged within the purported payoff.
Bag Filled with Cigars
The reason for the lack of damning proof that emerged from these conversations, Mr. Shechtman argued, was that there hadn’t truly been a bribe. He claimed that the Ferragamo bag Mr. Rechnitz testified had contained the payoff was really filled with cigars, displaying video of the witness leaving his workplace with the bag that raised questions as to whether it was massive sufficient to comprise $60,000 in cash and be carried as loosely as it was.
He noted that Mr. Rechnitz told jurors that when he gave Mr. Seabrook the bag, the union leader placed ferragamo pink it on the ground of his vehicle on the driver’s facet while they went to dinner. “You don’t put it within the glove compartment, you don’t put it in the trunk ” Mr. Shechtman asked, his voice rising to recommend that had it really been a big cash cost, his shopper would have been careful not to go away it where a passerby might spot the expensive designer bag.
“This story is unnecessary,” he told the jury. “This shouldn’t be a criminal offense and this is not a criminal case that should have been introduced in this courtroom.”
Following a break for lunch, Mr. Shechtman laid out an alternative concept of the case through which a $60,000 cost was made, but to Mr. Rechnitz from Mr. Huberfeld as partial compensation for bringing the COBA funding to his firm. He cited a $60,000 examine Mr. Huberfeld made payable to Mr. Rechnitz’s enterprise, JSR Capital, and three smaller checks written as charitable donations in Mr. Rechnitz’s identify that added up to $39,600. He stated they represented a payment equal to a half-% of the $20-million investment, which he referred to as a reasonable finder’s charge on condition that Mr. Rechnitz was not an authorized placement agent who may have legally commanded a higher fee.
Calls Ruse a Tax Dodge
As to an bill for $60,000 for Knick tickets that Mr. Rechnitz had testified was truly reimbursement to him for laying out the bribe money to Mr. Seabrook, Mr. Shechtman advised jurors that this was created as a method to shield Mr. Huberfeld’s cost to Mr. Rechnitz from tax obligations.
By the time the summations began, the blistering cross-examination of Mr. Rechnitz had given jurors causes to dislike him that went beyond the lies and thievery to which he confessed whereas balking at Mr. Shechtman’s claim that he “defrauded” someone he had stated was one among his closest pals, insisting that mendacity repeatedly was not the identical as fraud.
Mr. Rechnitz acknowledged that for a 2013 Purim occasion, he made himself up in blackface, however denied knowing that this was insulting to African-People, who made up six or seven members of the jury. When Mr. Shechtman requested him about an e-mail by which he referred to an acquaintance as performing like “a schmuck,” then requested, “Is he schvartze ”, Mr. Rechnitz insisted that he was simply using the Yiddish phrase for “black,” and had not meant it in a pejorative approach.
Of their requests for exhibits over the first two days of deliberations, the jurors centered closely on Mr. Rechnitz, asking for all the transcript of his testimony, while also searching for emails involving Platinum Companions and its communications with COBA and wiretapped recordings of conversations the prime witness had. Not one of the requests involved testimony given by Mr. Husamudeen and the two different union officials moreover Mr. Seabrook who have been on the board of the COBA annuity fund.
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