Jurors in the case of a political operative accused of scamming Mayor Michael Bloomberg out of $1.1 million appeared Thursday to be considering defense arguments that prosecutors had named the wrong victim.
Jurors twice sent handwritten notes to the judge on the matter _ first asking who the victim was, then, more than four hours later, asking whether they were required to consider the identity of the victim.
The panel must find that Bloomberg was the victim in order to convict John Haggerty of grand larceny. Haggerty is accused of convincing the mayor to finance a $1.1 million poll-watching effort for his 2009 reelection campaign through the state Independence Party, then mounting only a meager operation and pocketing most of the cash himself.
Haggerty's lawyers have argued that once Bloomberg donated the money to the Independence Party he no longer owned it, and so he can't be named the victim. They say Bloomberg and his staff financed the ballot security effort through the party to distance his campaign from a practice that some Democrats have criticized as a cover for voter suppression, often in precincts with large minority populations. Bloomberg testified the effort was meant to ensure that voters didn't encounter problems at the polls, and paying for it through the party was simply standard procedure.
The defense has also questioned whether the trust that the money came from should have been named the victim, instead of the mayor personally.
Prosecutors maintain that it was the mayor himself who was victimized.
On Thursday, Justice Ronald Zweibel instructed the jury that Bloomberg has been named the victim in the case, and said he would answer their second question on the matter Friday morning when deliberations resume.
Outside of court, defense lawyer Dennis Vacco called the ownership of the funds "the seminal issue in the case."
"Once he makes that lawful contribution he lost ownership of the money," Vacco said.
Prosecutors left court without commenting.
Samantha Gross can be reached at www.twitter.com/samanthagross