WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The federal judge in the corruption trial of three New York politicians has declared a mistrial for two of them.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith, Queens Republican leader Vincent Tabone and former New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran are accused of participating in a scheme to bribe Republican Party leaders so Smith, a Democrat, could run on the GOP line in last year’s New York City mayoral race.
The mistrial covers Smith and Tabone.
“I just thank God for what’s happening right now,” Smith told CBS 2’s Lou Young as he left court Tuesday.
The FBI has days worth of video and audio chronicling the alleged plot. While some sound and images were entered into evidence, other recordings — some in Yiddish — were never handed over to the defense. The prosecutor said they had nothing to do with the case, but Judge Kenneth Karas ruled that wasn’t for the government to decide.
“I think they do help us because there’s information on these tapes that support what I’ve been saying all along, that Sen. Smith was entrapped,” said defense attorney Gerald Shargel told reporters.
Karas had hoped to avoid a mistrial by granting a delay in the case, allowing defense attorneys time to review the recordings. But three jurors said they could not extend their service into July and were dismissed, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.
Halloran did not want a mistrial, and his trial will continue with the remaining jurors, Cornell reported.
“Mr. Halloran has been waiting for 14 months to clear his name,” the ex-councilman’s attorney, Vinoo Varghese, told Cornell. ” … He doesn’t want to wait seven months to clear his name. We believe we have the best shot here with this jury to clear his name, and that’s what he’s trying to do.”
A new trial date of Jan. 5 has been set for Smith and Tabone.
The government added 27 Yiddish translators to work around the clock on the tapes, Cornell reported Monday. Shargel, however, said he doesn’t trust the tapes were accurately translated.
Shargel refused to play the blame game Tuesday over the disclosure of the recordings.
“You heard Judge Karas say it again in court today: There was a judgment call made, and like any judgment call, it could go wrong, and I think this went wrong,” Shargel told Cornell.
Smith allegedly paid off Halloran and top Republican Party bosses, believing running on the GOP line would help his chances at winning City Hall. He needed three of the five county leaders to sign off.
Prosecutors said more than $100,000 changed hands.
Smith is described by federal prosecutors as a prime example of the kind of corruption that pervades Albany. He’s running for re-election despite his legal troubles.
Halloran and Tabone, who was vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party, are co-defendants in the trial, which began June 4. Halloran allegedly “quarterbacked” the scheme for Smith.
Shargel says the senator is a victim of entrapment.
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