Last Updated:1:04 PM, December 10, 2011
Posted:11:44 AM, December 10, 2011
A $177 bagel? A $300,000 payment to his mistress? Some $40,000 in crooked donations? None of it could get a clueless jury to convict City Councilman Larry Seabrook of corruption.
The brazen Bronx pol grinned like a Cheshire cat as he sauntered out of Manhattan federal court yesterday after the judge declared a mistrial when jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked on a slate of charges that many saw as a slam dunk.
The ruling followed a midafternoon note in which jurors declared that the mountain of evidence against Seabrook was just too much for them to climb.
“[We] remain deadlocked on all counts, and it appears we will remain deadlocked,” they said in the message sent yesterday to Judge Robert Patterson Jr.
After the mistrial declaration, a beaming Seabrook, surrounded by supporters, said he “was hoping that the jury would come to a conclusion,” but that he would “live with what was said, and I’ll continue to keep the faith.”
The veteran pol also vowed to remain in his council seat, insisting, “I will be at the business of doing what needs to be done for my constituents.”
But when asked about the volume of evidence presented during his five-week trial — including more than 400 prosecution exhibits — Seabrook stood silent for several seconds, until one of his lawyers loudly announced, “Next question.”
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said prosecutors would seek to retry Seabrook, who’s charged with crimes that include funneling more than $1.2 million in council “slush” funds to non-profits that paid his then-mistress and several relatives more than $600,000 after taxes.
He was also accused of shaking down more than $40,000 in crooked donations to his political club, then pocketing the funds by claiming reimbursement for expenses using altered receipts.
One showed a bagel sandwich and Diet Snapple costing more than $177.
“While the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of Councilman Seabrook, we fully intend to retry the case, and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the councilman criminally exploited his official position in order to enrich his friends, his family, and himself,” Bharara said.
All members of the panel save the foreman refused to comment as they left the courthouse yesterday.
Foreman Frank DiBrino, of Manhattan, who said the lawyers on “both sides did a great job,” attributed the panel’s division to “different views on the evidence,” but wouldn’t elaborate.
DiBrino, a 46-year-old Condé Nast contract employee, also wouldn’t discuss his position on the 12 counts against Seabrook, and said he couldn’t remember how the panel voted.
“It was different on different charges,” he said. “It wasn’t the same all the way down.”
The eight-woman, four-man panel included five African-Americans, four whites, two Asians and one Hispanic. Five jurors live in The Bronx, and one, from Co-op City, is a Seabrook constituent.
They first declared themselves deadlocked on all counts on Monday, but continued deliberating at Patterson’s urging, asking to see dozens of exhibits and testimony transcripts.
After the jurors again declared themselves deadlocked yesterday morning, Patterson urged them to try again to reach a verdict on some counts.
Seabrook’s trial got off to a shaky start for prosecutors when Bronx boiler-company owner Leon Eastmond denied any “quid pro quo” involving his contributions to Seabrook’s political club and Seabrook’s role in helping Eastmond land a contract for the new Yankee Stadium.
Seabrook’s ex-mistress, Gloria Jones-Grant, later recanted allegations that she paid Seabrook cash kickbacks, and that he directed her to forge signatures on two sublease agreements for office space adjacent to his district office.
Under cross-examination, Jones-Grant also revealed that she was recently diagnosed with the “onset of dementia.”
After yesterday’s mistrial, defense lawyer Tony Ricco said the prosecution’s plan to retry the case “is certainly something we anticipated, and we look forward to the retrial.”
List of charges
Among the evidence against Councilman Larry Seabrook was a deli receipt on which he claimed to have spent $177.64 on a bagel lunch. Charges Seabrook had been facing:
COUNT 1:Soliciting and receiving unlawful gratuities
COUNT 2:Use of interstate facilities to solicit and receive unlawful gratuities
COUNT 3:Money laundering
COUNT 4-6:Mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with City Council discretionary funding
COUNT 7-9:Mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with the council’s FDNY diversity/recruitment initiative
COUNT 10-12:Mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with the council’s Jobs to Build On initiative