NEW YORK – The owner of the New York Giants tried a courthouse version of the Hail Mary pass Tuesday to escape serving on a jury hearing a drug trial before a judge threw him for a loss, rejecting excuses that included the upcoming NFL draft and his role as a negotiator for team owners in the work stoppage that resulted from their dispute with players.
The confrontation occurred in U.S. District Court in Manhattan between John Mara and Judge Jed S. Rakoff after Mara was called to become the final alternate on a jury expected to hear a major international drug case for the next three weeks. Mara has served as a juror at least once before on a panel that reached a verdict in a criminal case.
"Tell us about yourself," the judge instructed.
"I am the president, CEO of the New York Giants, for the ball team, and have been so employed for the last 21 years," answered the 56-year-old Mara, a Harrison, N.Y., resident.
The Giants owner did not know it but he already had lost ground in his quest to avoid sitting on the jury because the judge knew Mara had a law degree from Fordham University.
"That's correct, your honor, the law school," Mara said.
Shortly afterward, Mara asked to approach the bench. The judge agreed.
"My only issue, your honor, is the third week in here because we're approaching the NFL draft. It is a big, big period for us, and I need to be at my place of employment during that period," Mara said. "That's my only issue. If it was just two weeks, I would be OK, but the third week is problematic for me."
The judge noted that the third week would be a short one in court because of religious holidays, including Passover and Easter.
The judge mentioned that his wife is head of the Fordham Corporate Law Center and that she had spoken "very highly" of Mara's work for the school.
"And she wouldn't want me to excuse you under any set of circumstances," Rakoff said.
Then Mara realized the draft wasn't his only issue after all.
"My only other issue with that is we're in a lockout situation right now, which may or may not end at some point in time," he said. "I'm one of the lead negotiators for the owners' side, so if for some reason negotiations start again, that causes — that causes me an issue."
The judge said he would reconsider if there was "a real emergency."
He added: "For now, I am going to leave you on, but keep us informed if problems arise."
As the fourth alternate, Mara will sit in the jury box above the 12 regular jurors listening to the evidence and deliberate at the end of the trial only if four regular jurors are dismissed along the way.