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February 15, 2012

New twists in Ridge Hill corruption trial: Forest City consultant Pirro said to claim job for defendant Jereis would get defendant Annabi to flip her City Council vote

Atlantic Yards Report

In pre-trial decisions yesterday by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, the contours of the Yonkers corruption trial, which begins today, became more clear, with confirmation that Forest City Ratner officials would indeed testify and new evidence of a central role by a Forest City Ratner consultant.

The case involves bribes allegedly paid by Yonkers Republican Chair Zehy Jereis to Council Member Sandy Annabi to greenlight two projects, the Longfellow (by Milio Management) and Ridge Hill (by Forest City). Attorney Anthony Mangone has already pleaded guilty in the Longfellow case.

The Pirro connection

The New York Times reported, in With Action by Judge, Details in a Yonkers Corruption Case Emerge, that Albert Pirro, Jr., husband of Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro (and former federal prisoner on tax charges), was working as a consultant for Forest City Ratner:

During a meeting with one council member, Mr. Pirro turned the conversation to how others on the Council might vote, according to a prosecution account described in a judge’s ruling released late Tuesday; when it came to assessing one member, Sandy Annabi, he showed no hesitation, the account continued.

He was confident, according to the same account, that he could win her vote by giving a job to one of her friends, Zehy Jereis, then the chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party.

“I am not worried about Sandy Annabi,” Mr. Pirro was quoted as saying to Dennis Robertson, then a councilman. “We will just give Zehy a consulting contract, and we will get her vote.”

Federal charges indicate that's what happened, that Jereis got a no-show job from Forest City after Annabi changed her vote. The Times reports:

Mr. Pirro declined to comment. Forest City Ratner said it “had no knowledge of what Mr. Pirro may have said.” The company said it had cooperated fully with the inquiry and “at no point was there any indication or suggestion that they behaved in a way that was inappropriate.”

Prosecutors may not have suggested that Forest City behaved illegally, but the developer has never explained or justified the no-show job. Doesn't that qualify as inappropriate or unethical?

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The New York Times, With Action by Judge, Details in a Yonkers Corruption Case Emerge

It was 2005, and Albert J. Pirro Jr., a noted man of influence in Westchester County, was working as a consultant for a major real estate developer that was seeking approval from the Yonkers City Council for a large luxury mixed-use development.

His wife, Jeanine F. Pirro, was soon to begin a Senate campaign that she would later abandon; Mr. Pirro was several years removed from an 11-month stint in federal prison in a tax case, and he had been retained by the developer, Forest City Ratner, to help it obtain enough support from the City Council to win approval for the project, Ridge Hill.

The Wall Street Journal, Judge Allows New Claims in Bribe Trial

A Manhattan federal judge presiding over a Yonkers corruption trial ruled Tuesday that prosecutors can introduce previously unknown allegations involving former state Sen. Nick Spano, who pleaded guilty last week to tax evasion.

Although Mr. Spano isn't charged in the case and won't be taking the stand, his presence has begun to loom large offstage.

LoHud.com, Judge in Yonkers corruption trial allows evidence involving Nick Spano, Al Pirro

Video by Matthew Brown

Yonkers Tribune, Pre-trial Hearing Sets the Tone in Government’s Case Against Annabi and Jereis

Posted by eric at February 15, 2012 4:26 PM