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Norman Seabrook's bribery retrial date set by judge

Norman Seabrook is accused of taking payoffs to steer union money to a hedge fund.

Norman Seabrook exits a federal courthouse in lower

Norman Seabrook exits a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan after a mistrial was declared in his bribery trial, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Former Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association chief Norman Seabrook complained Thursday about the government’s decision to retry him on bribery charges after a Manhattan federal judge set a July 23 trial date for allegedly taking payoffs to steer union money to a hedge fund.

Speaking to reporters, Seabrook said he looked forward to being “vindicated,” but lamented that he wasn’t getting the same treatment as U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who wasn’t being retried after a hung jury.

“Not only am I suffering but the men and women of the Department of Correction are suffering,” Seabrook said. “It is kind of bittersweet that Senator Menendez goes back to work since he had a hung jury as well. It doesn’t seem fair.“

A federal jury deadlocked last November after a two week trial on charges that Seabrook, 57, took a $60,000 bribe to invest $20 million in union pension money with Platinum Partners, a hedge fund founded by co-defendant Murray Huberfeld, who also faces retrial.

The new trial will pose another test for the credibility of federal informant Jona Rechnitz, the investor at the center of NYPD and City Hall corruption probes in 2016. Rechnitz, who also will testify in an upcoming NYPD corruption trial, claims he delivered the cash in a Ferragamo bag.

Seabrook was removed from his union post by the board in 2016 after he was charged, but in his comments Thursday after a hearing before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein seemed to dispute that.

“I am still the president of the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association and the only people who can remove me are the members according to the constitution and bylaws,” he said. “I want to get back to work.”

New union president Elias Husamudeen, who testified at the first trial, did not return a call, and a spokesman for the union declined to comment.

At the hearing, prosecutors signaled at least one shift from the first trial, telling Hellerstein they would seek to introduce evidence that the hedge fund Seabrook invested in went bankrupt and union members lost their money.

Jurors at the first trial were kept in the dark about the fate of the funds, and Seabrook lawyer Paul Shechtman said it would be unfair to put it in because there was no evidence Seabrook knew it would be a bad fund. “They want to prejudice the jury,” he said.

Hellerstein, who did not preside at the first trial, hasn’t yet signaled if he will allow it.

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