MANHATTAN (CN) – Corruption charges that hinge on the contents of a Ferragamo man-purse inched toward Tuesday as a federal jury deadlocked on the former head of New York’s powerful prison guards’ union.
The jury has been deliberating since Nov. 8 on the two-week trial of former Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association president Norman Seabrook, whom prosecutors accused of steering $20 million in worker retirement funds to the hedge fund Platinum Partners in exchange for kickbacks.
Believing the panel had reached an impasse on Tuesday, the foreman wrote in a note: “We are deadlocked and request your guidance about how to proceed.”
“Thank you, Jesus,” Seabrook exclaimed Tuesday, throwing his arms in the air, upon hearing the note. Seabrook’s celebration may be short lived; U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter instructed the jury to continue working toward a verdict.
“I received this note that suggests that you are deadlocked,” Carter told them. “I must instruct you to continue to deliberate. I urge you to consider each other’s views with an open mind.”
In addition to the charges against Seabrook, the jury deadlocked on allegations that Platinum Partners founder Murray Huberfeld passed Seabrook a $60,000 bribe to land the union as a client.
Attorneys for Seabrook and Huberfeld have labored to undermine the credibility of the government’s key witness, a disgraced real estate investor named Jona Rechnitz.
Having pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe the defendants as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and top officials at the New York City Police Department, Rechnitz received immunity for his involvement in two Ponzi schemes, defrauding a medical insurer and lying on government forms to obtain a gun license.
Rechnitz told jurors that he was the one who handed Seabrook a $60,000 bribe from Huberfeld, bringing the cash to the union leader in a Salvatore Ferragamo handbag outside a pricey Midtown Manhattan steakhouse.
Though Rechnitz was the only witness to a transaction that he said occurred on the Dec. 11, 2014, meeting, surveillance footage caught Rechnitz leaving his apartment with the satchel, which authorities later found at Seabrook’s house.
Rechnitz’s testimony about Mayor de Blasio rippled across the city but failed to scuttle the first-term Democrat’s re-election last week to another four years in office.
Seabrook and Huberfeld would have faced up to 40 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and honest services wire fraud.