With little more than an hour left in the second full day of the federal corruption trial of New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook Tuesday afternoon, a jury had only just been seated, signifying the divisive and wide-reaching scope of the crimes the Bronx legislator is accused of committing.
The unique trial, which began Monday morning, brings the worlds of New York politics, major league baseball, and community service all together under one roof through the involvement of Seabrook. The Democrat was indicted almost two years ago on charges of forging a $177 receipt for a bagel and soda, giving city-funded jobs to family members and ripping off a number of taxpayer-funded nonprofits.
A virtual who's who of uptown politics populates the list of possible trial witnesses Judge Robert Patterson identified Monday, including U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, State Assemblyman Jose Rivera, former Bronx Borough President Alfonso Carrión and former City Councilman Miguel Martinez, who pled guilty in 2009 to three counts of conspiracy and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
Other high-profile people on the list include family members and a woman believed to be Seabrook's mistress, as well as high-ranking members of the New York Yankees operation, including president Randy Lavine and chief operation officer Lonn Trost.
As such, many potential jurors who had connections to city government or any of the other myriad groups and industries to be discussed during the trial felt the need to state that they thought they may be unable to be fair and impartial during the course of the trial. The trial's anticipated length, at three weeks or more, also figured into many possible jury candidates asking to be released from the pool.
I thought it was interesting though, the number of jurors that chose to excuse themselves because the case involves politics, Anthony Ricco, an attorney for Seabrook, said during a recess from the proceedings.
The prosecution declined to comment on the proceedings, but another of Seabrook's attorneys, Edward Wilford, said Monday that he believes his client will be let off the hook.
There are several reasons why the government cannot prove their allegations, Wilford said, declining to elaborate further while the trial remains in its infancy.
Seabrook stands accused of granting jobs at nonprofits he provided with $1.2 million in city funding while he was a councilman to relatives, as well as ensuring that a nearly-$300,000 contract to install boilers at the new Yankee Stadium went to a company that allegedly gave him $50,000 in kickbacks.
He is perhaps most famously accused of changing a $7 receipt for a bagel and soda from Bits, Bites and Baguettes in Manhattan to read $177 in order to be reimbursed that inflated sum. The bagel shop's owner, Robert Garber, is also on the list of people who may give testimony in Seabrook's trial.
Seabrook was a leading figure in Bronx politics for more than two decades, and he has already avoided conviction in a previous corruption trial.
He seems comfortable and upbeat in Patterson's courtroom in Manhattan federal court, dressing in stylish suits, packing the room with supporters Monday, and laughing along with other viewers during the entertaining process of vetting potential jurors. One juror listed drinking beer as a favorite pastime, and one listed Judge Judy as her favorite television shows, eliciting chuckles from Seabrook and many other attendees.