“It was strange that he still considered himself viable,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who won handily. “Granted,” he said, “it’s not a big choice: George Guldi or myself.” He joked that Mr. Guldi got less votes than he did indictments, which is not quite true. Although indicted on 110 counts, in the September primary Mr. Guldi received 163 votes.
The prosecution’s key witness is Mr. Ellner, a lawyer alleged to have assisted in the mortgage scheme. A year ago, he pleaded guilty to fraud charges and has been testifying against Mr. Guldi as part of his plea bargain. Burly and bearded, wearing a gold chain and cowboy boots, he recalled the story of a car ride in which he claims that Mr. Guldi laid out his plan to abscond with the $853,000 check, a damning tale to which Mr. Guldi offered a blistering response.
The cross-examination began with a warning from Judge Doyle. “Both of you went to law school,” he said. “Act courteously.”
Courtesy faded fast. Attempting to discredit the witness, Mr. Guldi painted him as a steroid abuser, a perjurer and a snitch. In an attempt to depict his former associate as a chronic betrayer of friends, he asked how many of the people Mr. Ellner had testified against had also attended his wedding. Then he asserted that Mr. Ellner had opened up his own mother to an accessory charge by telling her of some of his crimes.
“Isn’t it a fact, Mr. Ellner,” he asked coolly, “that by that testimony, you threw your mother under the bus?”
That and many other questions were quickly struck down by Judge Doyle, who began saying “sustained” before Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides had a chance to rise from her seat and object. The frustration of watching Mr. Guldi defend himself began to affect her, and she spent much of the afternoon rubbing her temples, eyes screwed shut.
In his continuing effort to characterize Mr. Ellner as a villain, Mr. Guldi has recently attempted to establish a connection between the witness and Steve Levy, the Suffolk County executive who left the Democratic Party last year in a failed attempt to gain the Republican nomination for governor. Mr. Levy, who is up for reelection in the fall, has admitted to recommending Mr. Ellner for about $85,000 in county work, and Mr. Ellner, on the stand last week, said that he had donated more than $8,000 to the executive’s campaign. But Mr. Guldi has not been able to do any more than imply that a bribe was made.
In the first days of the trial, he served Mr. Levy with a subpoena that was later quashed. Since then, Judge Doyle has made it clear that any mention of Mr. Levy is ancillary to the matter at hand. By Monday, Mr. Guldi had taken to referring to the executive as “He Who Must Not Be Named.”
Mr. Guldi’s supporters, who gather on Ms. Scofield’s blog–20,000 unique visitors in the past three weeks, she points out–interpret Judge Doyle’s behavior as the most transparent sign of a conspiracy that stretches the length of Suffolk County. In particular, they believe that Mr. Guldi is being targeted for his bold legislative work in the ’90s. Optimists all, they consider Ms. Stavrides to be on the run, and are convinced that an acquittal is imminent. To one degree or another, they have all been charmed by Mr. Guldi, who has an intellect that even his opponents admire.
“I thought George was a really bright guy,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “In that sense, maybe I’m more surprised that he had gotten caught.”