U.S. District Court Judge Lloyd F. MacMahon indicated today that he would complete hearings Tuesday on Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan's petition to have his case tried in federal court.
The judge said he first wanted to review 11 excerpts of state grand jury testimony that Bronx prosecutors have asked him to keep secret to protect the witnesses involved in the case.
Lawyers for Donovan, who was indicted in September with nine other men on charges of grand larceny and fraud, contend that the evidence against him is too flimsy and that, in any case, as a Cabinet officer, he is entitled to a trial in federal court.
Bronx prosecutor Stephen R. Bookin, who took the witness stand last Thursday and today, stated under cross-examination that the only direct evidence against Donovan consists of a $200,000 check that he and another Donovan construction company executive signed in 1979 and "circumstantial evidence" such as "various inconsistent and false statements" Donovan made to federal and state investigators and grand juries.
Donovan's chief lawyer, former U.S. attorney Paul Curran, has suggested in his questioning that the evidence is too thin to justify an indictment.
Bronx prosecutors have not elaborated on the "various inconsistent and false" statements Donovan is supposed to have made, but they have taken the position that the evidence is sufficient to link Donovan to the alleged conspiracy underlying the indictment.
The 137-count indictment accuses the defendants of defrauding the New York City Transit Authority of some $8 million on a six-year-old subway project here through the medium of an illegal minority business enterprise (MBE) that was enlisted as a subcontractor by Donovan's company.
The $200,000 check served to get the allegedly phony MBE, Jopel Contracting, started on the project in 1979. It was signed by Donovan and Joseph DiCarolis, another executive of Donovan's company, Schiavone Construction.
Donovan testified last week that he had co-signed it routinely and had no recollecion of why it was issued except for an attached memo saying that it was an "advance as per subcontract."
Over the protests of the Bronx prosecution team, MacMahon subsequently ordered the Bronx grand jury transcripts produced for the hearings here. Some 29 excerpts were provided to the defense.
Defense attorney Curran put those excerpts into evidence today, under seal, but confined most of his questioning of Bookin to other matters, such as whether the New York City Transit Authority was in fact "a political subdivision" of the state.