Former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto was found not guilty of all corruption-related charges against him on Thursday, according to numerous published reports, after a jury deliberated for five days.
The jury remained deadlocked, according to court officials, on the charges against former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda.
“I think the jury has spoken, and they came out with the proper verdict,” said Mike Rich, 69, a lifelong Oyster Bay resident. “We try cases in court, not public opinion. I think coverage by [some media] was slanted, especially when they repeated the charges every day. I’m very proud of my town.”
Mangano and Venditto were both facing multiple charges of bribery and corruption, and restaurateur Harendra Singh, who has pleaded guilty to bribing the former officials in exchange for help for his struggling businesses, was the government’s key witness.
Venditto was charged with unlawfully securing town guarantees for millions of dollars in loans for Singh’s businesses.
According to Singh’s testimony, Venditto was largely hands-off during the negotiations that led to Singh’s being granted the loan guarantees, but made it clear that he supported the deal, and would make sure it was passed by the town council.
“When John Venditto referred people to Singh, he took care of them,” said U.S. Attorney Raymond Tierney. “Venditto got prestige.” And free meals, limo rides totaling $11,400, use of Singh’s conference room, trips and hotel stays, too, which Venditto’s friends and family also enjoyed, Tierney said.
“I’m disappointed and shocked at the verdict,” said Bob Freier, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Oyster Bay trustee last year. “I think John was a very corrupt supervisor.”
Freier added that he was certain that Venditto was used by Mangano “based on Lenny Genova’s testimony. John was there for everything and knew everything. The verdict, I think, is an unfortunate miscarriage of justice. All that being said, I respect the jury’s decision. It’s time to move on.”
After an 11-week-long trial, Venditto was found not guilty at mid-morning on Thursday, with jurors sending Judge Joan Azrack a note indicating that they had the partial verdict but could not agree on verdicts for the Manganos.
Centre Island resident Jamie Scott followed the trial closely. “It looked to me like Venditto was going to get a pass,” he said. “It didn’t look like he was involved in some of the things they were trying to put on him. I think the jury got it right.”
Jeff Davis, of Bayville, knows Venditto. “I’m happy, relieved and somewhat surprised,” he said. “I thought when the feds bring a case against someone they usually have a concrete case.”
Venditto’s acquittal does not free him completely from legal trouble, however. He still faces charges stemming from two Nassau County cases, including corrupt use of his position, official misconduct and defrauding the government. He is due in court for conferences on those cases in June.
It was unclear, as of press time Thursday, whether deliberations on the Manganos would continue through the afternoon.