Judge refuses to delay trial for three borough politicos

By Rich Bockmann

A federal corruption trial for three Queens politicians will not be delayed until after this year’s elections, according to a new report.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), former Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vince Tabone and ex-city Councilman Dan Halloran will go on trial June 2 as originally planned, the AP reported.

Both Smith and Tabone had requested that the trial be pushed back to the end of the year so as not to interfere with this year’s primaries, which Albany is considering moving from September to June in order to coincide with federal contests.

But federal Judge Kenneth Karas, who is overseeing the trial in White Plains, denied the request last Friday.

The Queens trio were arrested in April along with three others in an alleged plot to funnel $500,000 in state transportation dollars to a sham real estate project in Rockland County in order to buy support from city Republican leaders to back Smith in last year’s mayoral election.

Defendants Jay Savino, who was chairman of the Bronx GOP, and Joseph Desmaret, deputy mayor of Spring Valley in Rockland, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

The judge also ordered a separate trial for former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, who is accused of taking bribes in return for selling off a piece of Spring Valley-owned property to an undercover FBI agent and a developer who was cooperating with the bureau.

Smith’s attorney argued a June trial would result in “significant and unfair prejudice” to the senator as he runs for an eighth term in Albany and requested a continuance until October.

Smith is already facing challenges from Democratic Party attorney Munir Avery and Clyde Vanel, an intellectual-property attorney/small businessman from Cambria Heights who narrowly lost a contest last year for the City Council seat covering much of Smith’s district.

Deputy Borough President Leroy Comrie, who was term-limited from the Council seat Vanel took a run at last year, is also rumored to be considering throwing his hat into the contest.

Tabone supported Smith’s request and went so far as to ask the trial be delayed until December, contending that pulling GOP leaders into court to testify could hamper Republican election efforts and reveal party strategies to Democrats.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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