Jurors found in the trial of Norman Seabrook, the former brain of the city’s correction officers’ union, told a judge these were deadlocked on Tuesday, a possible sign of the deeply divisive characteristics of the government’s major witness, a ex – donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The jury’s note to the judge illuminated the extent to that your witness, Jona Rechnitz, had complicated – and perhaps derailed – what prosecutors had sought to portray as an easy and even clichéd bribery case, complete with a cash payoff inside a car. Mr. Rechnitz possessed testified to having to pay Mr. Seabrook $60,000 in cash stuffed inside a designer bag as payment for Mr. Seabrook directing $20 million of union funds right into a high-risk expense fund operate by Mr. Rechnitz’s good friend, Murray Huberfeld, who is also on trial.
Prosecutors had cast Mr. Rechnitz’s testimony as a very important first-person bill of Mr. Seabrook’s and Mr. Huberfeld’s kickback scheme, but defense legal representatives possessed assailed Mr. Rechnitz’s credibility, informing jurors that he was a pathological liar and that he continuing to lie on the witness stand.
Mr. Rechnitz, who was simply cooperating with the federal government after pleading guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge, gave the defense legal representatives a lot of fodder for their accusations. He admitted informing a string of lies before signing his cooperation arrangement, including to law enforcement, family members and potential investors in his various businesses.
And he made zero secret of his work to get influence with key city policymakers – not merely Mr. Seabrook, who for a lot more than two years was among the city’s most powerful labor leaders, but also Mr. de Blasio, to whom Mr. Rechnitz was a generous marketing campaign contributor, and Philip Banks III, once the best chief of the New York Police Department.
That history, coupled with Mr. Rechnitz’s confrontational and surly demeanor on the witness stand, could be the reason for the jury’s lack of consensus, despite Mr. Rechnitz’s narrative of a obvious, evident payoff between himself and Mr. Seabrook on a frigid night in December 2014. Some jurors had appeared visibly perturbed by Mr. Rechnitz when he was testifying; during his cross-examination by defense lawyers, some jurors possessed shifted in their seats or frowned simply because he spoke of pay-to-play schemes.