NEW YORK (AP) — A prosecutor at the bribery retrial of a once-powerful New York union boss slipped about $20,000 in cash into a luxury bag to show that it easily fit as he made his closing argument Monday.
"There is still an ocean of room in that bag," Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin Bell told jurors as he showed them the inside of the Ferragamo bag while asserting there was plenty of room for the $60,000 that the government alleges Norman Seabrook accepted.
"It would have been dramatic if it didn't fit," he quipped, saying there was so much empty space in the bag that $200,000 in $100 bills would easily fit. Bell said Seabrook accepted the cash in exchange for steering $20 million of union money to a hedge fund.
Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the lead attorney at O.J. Simpson's 1994 murder trial, won an acquittal after his client struggled to pull on gloves from the crime scene. "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit," said Cochran, who died in 2005.
Bell's demonstration punctuated a closing in which he insisted there was "multiple independent sources," including phone and bank records, to corroborate a deeply flawed star witness whose history of telling lies, big and small, gave defense attorney Paul Shechtman plenty to talk about.
Shechtman spent the first half hour of his closing in Manhattan federal court telling jurors that real estate developer Jona Rechnitz, the government primary witness, was a world-class liar.
"If they had a Nobel Prize in manipulation, Jona Rechnitz would be a recipient," Shechtman said. "You can fault Norman Seabrook for falling for Jona Rechnitz's act."
He added: "Norman fell for Jona."
The lawyer said flatly that Seabrook was innocent. And he said that while Bell told "a good story," he would give them "the real story."
Jurors heard closings throughout Monday. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said he would read instructions on the law Tuesday before deliberations begin.
Seabrook, 58, was head of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association for more than two decades before his 2016 arrest.
He has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud. The jury in his first trial deadlocked.