By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
Among Lattanzio's promises to Hilton as they dined was to bring him to the Friday lunches at Ognibene's office. There, he told him, he'd be able to meet powerful people, including Ognibene's law partner, Gerard McCabe, whose brother Kevin was then a chief aide to City Council Speaker Peter Vallone. "You'll meet Vallone's guy," said Lattanzio.
Gerard McCabe, who is no longer a partner with Ognibene, said he barely knew Lattanzio. Kevin McCabe, who left Vallone's staff three years ago, said he considered Ognibene "a straight shooter" and had never heard of Lattanzio.
Sometimes, even the illusion of power and access can be helpful, Lattanzio explained to the jury in testimony that frequently sounded like a seminar on municipal corruption. "One of the things about city people," he said at one point from the witness chair, "if you tend to have contacts, it benefits them."
Prosecutors estimated the cost of Hilton's meal at Alberto's, in addition to a lunch at the Brooklyn steakhouse Peter Luger's and the basketball game ticket, at less than $300. No estimates have been made of the value of the sustained benevolence to Ognibene, including the hotel upgrade, the fishing rods, the golf clubs, and the "countless" meals given by Lattanzio to Ognibene and his staff. But a check on the price of tickets for upcoming concerts by the world's most famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, found none selling for less than $200 apiece. None of the gifts are listed on Ognibene's personal financial disclosure forms filed with the city's Conflicts of Interest Board.
Other areas also remain unexplored. When investigators broke into Lattanzio's Canal Street office months before his 1998 arrest, they found a Mets baseball calendar indicating that Ognibene had attended two ball games with the consultant. Investigators said their probe of Ognibene is ongoing, and last week they were continuing to question the councilman and his staff about campaign expenses and other matters.