By Rich Bockmann
Prosecutors are asking a federal judge to consider whether the political aspirations of a Republican attorney seeking a northeast Queens congressional seat conflict with his firm’s representation of a GOP operative on trial in a borough corruption case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Anderson filed papers Monday asking White Plains District Court Judge Kenneth Karas to probe the “potential conflict of interest” in Republican congressional candidate Grant Lally’s Mineola, L.I.-based law firm, Lally & Misir LLP, which is representing ex-Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vince Tabone in his federal corruption trial.
Earlier this year Deborah Misir, Tabone’s lead defense attorney and Lally’s wife, requested the court delay her client’s June trial until the fall, arguing that Republican election efforts could be unfairly hampered if party leaders are called to testify.
The lawyers prosecuting the case out of the Manhattan office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, a Democrat, claim the request brings up a possible conflict of interest.
Any attorney working for the Lally & Misir firm, they argue, could conceivably put the partner’s political interests ahead of their legal obligation to fairly represent their client.
“Under council’s reasoning, it might be the case that calling a particular witness would be helpful to Tabone’s defense but cast Mr. Lally’s political party or his interests in an unfavorable light,” the prosecutor wrote. “Under that scenario, the decision to call such a witness might be influenced — consciously or unconsciously — by Mr. Lally’s concern for his electoral interests.”
Misir told TimesLedger Newspapers she found the prosecutor’s claims entirely baseless and accused the office of trying to deny Tabone effective counsel.
“No court has ever found that a female attorney, by virtue of being married to a congressional candidate, would be barred from representing a client,” she said. “We’ve litigated this case very hard in pre-trial proceedings and I suspect they’re very worried about losing.”
Karas, a Republican appointed to the court by President George W. Bush in 2003, has given the law firm until Monday to respond to the feds’ claims.
Misir said not only will the firm make its case to the judge, but she plans to file a counter motion asking the court to discipline the prosecutor’s office.
Lally launched unsuccessful bids in 1994 and 1996 to unseat then-U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), who retired in 2012.
He is now challenging U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), who picked up part of the northeast Queens district after Ackerman retired in 2012.
It has been a year since Tabone was arrested along with several others, including former City Councilman Dan Halloran and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) in an alleged plot to rig the 2013 mayoral race.
Their trial is set for June 2.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.