"Has anybody heard of Mr. Antonelli or Mr. Yeldell?"
None of the 60 prospective jurors before U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard A. Gessell responded.
Multimillionaire developer Dominic F. Antonelli and former D.C. Department of Human Resources director Joseph P. Yeldell, defendants in a bribery and conspiracy case that dominated Washington news for months, were anonymous here.
"Does anybody know of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Henry F. Schuelke III, Richard F. Beizer or Michael Lehr?"
"Does anybody know Edward Bennett Williams, David Kendall or Gregory Craig. . . ?"
By midafternoon today, after eight women and four men had been selected as jurors for the retrial of Antonelli and Yeldell, it had become clear that the biggest scandal in the District of Columbia home-rule had attracted little -- if any -- attention in this city 150 miles away.
Two jurors said they had relatives in the Washington area. When Gesell asked if anyone on the panel visited Washington frequently, none responded. The Department of Human Resources, the Department of General Services, Yeldell's ill-fated Entrepreneur Travel Agency and Antonelli's building at 60 Florida Avenue NE meant nothing to them.
The jury, selected along with four alternates, includes housewives and auto mechanics, a truck driver, an engineering technician, a clerk and a secretary, among others. Most are from the suburban and rural areas surrounding Philadelphia; four are from the city itself.
They will be asked to decide if Yeldell and Antonelli corruptly conspired to secure a $5.6 million, 20-year District of Columbia government lease for the Florida Avenue property, which belonged to a partnership controlled by Antonelli.
Yeldell obtained the lease, prosecutors charge, in exchange for Antonelli's help in secretly obtaining a $33,000 loan.Defense attorneys contend there was no connection between the two transactions.
Noting that jury selection took about one-third as long as it had in the first trial, defense attorney Edward Bennett Williams, who represents Antonelli, along with Craig and Kendall said, "We'll probably keep this pace up. Lots of things that were argued the first time around won't have to be aruged again."
The entourage of defendants' supporters, which had faithfully attended the first trial last fall, had been whittled away here as the retrial began. One friend, an attorney, accompanied Yeldell, although his wife was not present.
The two defendants took an active part in the work at the counsel table. Antonelli, clad in a blue suit and wearing tinted glasses, leaned over several times to confer with Williams or Craig. Yeldell who sat nearby arms crossed, would occasionally don his half-glasses and pore over his notes.
The trial, which was moved here from Washington this spring after the original conviction of Yeldell and Antonelli had been overturned, was virtually the only case being heard in the nearly-deserted downtown courthouse. Most of the local judges were attending a conference in Hershey, Pa.
Opening statements in the case are expected tomorrow morning, followed by testimony of the first prosecution witnesses. These witnesses are expected to trace the founding and financial difficulties of Yeldell's Entrepreneur Travel Agency. Prosecutors contend these difficulties of first led Yeldell to seek financial aid from an associate of Antonelli's.