After six days of testimony, attorneys for both sides made their closing arguments on Tuesday in the fraud trial of Long Beach City Councilman Michael Fagen.
“We’re not here to determine the defendant’s morals or his ethics,” Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Marshall Trager told the jury. “You’re here to determine whether the people have proven to you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed a crime.”
The trial came to an end nearly a year after Fagen was indicted on charges that he illegally collected more than $15,000 in unemployment benefits. He faced one count of third-degree grand larceny, one count of petit larceny and 38 counts of first-degree offering of a false instrument for filing. The charges stem from his collection of unemployment benefits in 2010 that the state says he was not entitled to because he was employed by the city as a councilman.
Fagen faces up to seven years in prison if he is convicted. After more than a day of deliberations, the jury had yet to reach a verdict on Wednesday.
The prosecution claimed that Fagen knowingly defrauded the state, but the defense insisted that Fagen was misled into thinking that his actions were legal and that the charges were part of a setup by the previous city administration aimed at removing him from office.
In his summation, defense attorney Marc Gann argued that the case belonged in civil, not criminal, court, and that the prosecution failed to prove Fagen’s guilt. “You have to be convinced that his intent was to defraud, that his intent was to steal,” Gann told the jury.
He claimed that Fagen did not believe he was doing anything wrong and cooperated fully with the State Department of Labor, something a guilty man would not do.
Prosecutors also said that Fagen, a Democrat who was elected to the council in November 2009, failed to disclose to the Labor Department in September 2010 his work as a consultant to Willow Advisors, a hotel membership benefits company, and continued to receive “undeserved” unemployment benefits.