Former state Senator Malcolm Smith has been found guilty on all counts in a federal corruption trial where he was accused of trying to bribe his way onto the GOP ballot in the 2013 mayoral election, according to published reports.
An earlier attempt to prosecute Smith ended in June with a mistrial after it was revealed that the U.S. Attorney’s office failed to turn over recorded conversations to defense lawyers until the trial was already underway. Several jurors said that due to time constraints they could not serve on the jury long enough for the defense to process the new recordings.
After a retrial that began a month ago, jurors took a little more than four hours to deliberate before returning a guilty verdict, according to reports.
Once one of the most powerful elected officials in state government during his brief tenure as Senate president and later as a member of the breakaway Independent Democrats, Smith, who represented Jamaica, now faces up to 45 years in prison.
Also found guilty Thursday as an accomplice in the $200,000 bribery plot was former vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party, Vincent Tabone. He faces a maximum of 45 years behind bars.
The two men were part of a plot to rig the Republican mayoral primary by bribing the party’s leaders in three counties to allow Smith, a Democrat, a place on the GOP ballot.
Under the state’s Wilson-Pikula law, Smith, a Democrat, would need the approval of three of the five county Republican Party leaders to cross party lines and run in a GOP primary. Smith had the backing of Queens Republicans, thanks to Tabone, and had the Bronx leader in his pocket, as well.
He never did secure a third county party’s support.
To raise the money for the bribes, Smith hatched a deal with a Rockland County developer. He promised to steer $500,000 in state funding to transportation projects that would boost the developer’s business in exchange for his help in securing the ballot line.
The developer, Moses Stern, turned government informant, helping to lead federal prosecutors to Smith, Tabone and a third defendant, former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran. Halloran was convicted in July for taking $20,000 in bribes for his help with Republican leaders.
Halloran faces sentencing next month in federal court in White Plains. Federal probation officials have recommended that he be sentenced to six-and-a-half to eight years in prison.
Smith had attempted to delay the start of his first trial until the end of his primary election in September, but was denied the request. His opponent in the race, Leroy Comrie, defeated Smith by a landslide.
After the verdict was announced, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara released a statement, calling the case against Smith “just one of many pockets of corruption this office has uncovered in New York, which has become the ‘show me the money’ state. It should not be asking too much to expect public officials at least to obey the law. This office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption until every public official understands that violating the public trust will likely land you in prison.”
Smith is the latest in a long line of city and state elected officials who have been targeted by prosecutors on corruption and ethics charges, including one of the state’s most powerful elected officials, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was arrested two weeks ago.
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