Just got word that the three defendants in the Yonkers corruption case are going to be in court Friday for their first appearance before the judge who will handle their case, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.
Sandy Annabi (pictured left), Anthony Mangone, and Zehy Jereis have a 2:15 conference scheduled in McMahon’s Manhattan courtroom Friday afternoon. The appearance is in Manhattan because McMahon is assigned to the federal courthouse at 500 Pearl St. But she has been taking on cases based at the White Plains courthouse due to a backlog created by the deaths of judges Charles Brieant and Wiliam Conner.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel was appointed to replace Brieant. But she is limited in the number of criminal cases she can handle because of her previous gig as a high-ranking member of the U.S. Attorney’s office. Seibel was the number two person in the U.S. Attorney’s office, serving as then-U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia’s chief deputy. Seibel cannot oversee cases that started as investigations while she was still in the U.S. attorney’s office. The Yonkers case began in March 2007, more than a year before Seibel was nominated to the federal bench.
There’s no indication that the Yonkers case will be moved to Manhattan. McMahon sits in the White Plains courthouse one Friday a month, and future court appearances will probably be timed to that schedule. McMahon also has the high-profile terrorism case involving four Newburgh men charged with trying to blow up synagogues in the Bronx. That case has remained in the White Plains courthouse.
During former NYPD commish Bernard Kerik’s pre-trial conference today, federal Judge Stephen C. Robinson issued what for him has become the standard warning to lawyers about to go before a jury in his courtroom.
Robinson noted in federal prosecutors’ and defense lawyers’ filings leading up to the trial skedded to start Oct. 13 “there tends to be an edge in some of the writing.”
“This is going to be a hotly contested trial, I’m sure,” he said.
That led Robinson to tell defense lawyer Barry Berke and prosecutors Michael Bosworth and Elliott Jacobson to keep things calm and cordial in front of the jury – or else.
The judge gave them his three-step curative for unruly behavior by lawyers. First, he said, he warns them out of ear shot of the jury. Second, he warns them “with a rising level of anger.” Then there’s the final step, what amounts to the judicial equivalent of a public flogging.
“I’m going to call you out in front of the jury,” he said.
Robinson’s not fooling around about this stuff. It all stems from the first trial the judge oversaw after becoming a federal judge in late 2003. In December that year, while Robinson was still getting used to the fit of the new black robe, he was assigned the criminal trial of lawyer Donald Roth and private investigator David St. John, accused of witness tampering. The trial was a raucous two-month affair with Robinson engaging in what seemed like almost daily battles with defense lawyers Bill Aronwald and Larry Hochheiser, two veteran bulldog attorneys who used to be prosecutors. Ever since that case – Roth and St. John were convicted – Robinson has laid down the law to attorneys appearing for trial before him. He makes it clear that he’s the boss and that the jury will be on his side in any conflict with the attorneys.
“My juries like me,” he said today.