WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
During the second day of deliberations, jurors in the case of a political operative accused of stealing more than $1 million from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the judge to clarify who's the victim of the alleged scheme.
Justice Ronald Zweibel told jurors Thursday that Bloomberg is alleged to be the victim. The jurors' request may mean that they're considering a defense argument.
Defense lawyers said John Haggerty can't be found guilty of stealing from Bloomberg because the mayor had donated the money to the state Independence Party before Haggerty received any of it. Haggerty was in charge of a poll-watching effort for Bloomberg's 2009 re-election campaign. The mayor donated $1.1 million to the party to finance the project. Prosecutors say Haggerty did only $32,000 of work and pocketed much of the rest.
Outside the courtroom, Haggerty's attorney, Dennis Vacco, told reporters the jury's question went right to the heart of what he said is a fatal flaw in District Attorney Cyrus Vance case. "This is the seminal issue of the case," Vacco said.
Vacco added the mayor's "contribution to the Independence Party was a lawful contribution" and once the Mayor made that contribution "he lost ownership of the money." Vacco also pointed out the mayor never reported the money stolen.
In court Seidel said answering the jurors' question was a "matter of law." However, the defense team told the Judge the jury had to be told the District Attorney had to prove that Mayor Bloomberg was the "victim," as alleged in the indictment. Assistant District Attorney Eric Seidel left the court room right after the jury was dismissed for the evening and did not speak with reporters.
Judge Zweibel said he would take additional argument Friday from both sides before instructing the Jury.
A similar question came from the jury earlier in the day, and the Judge told the jury that Mayor Bloomberg should be considered the victim.