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Updated: Judge to ask jurors if they can serve past planned Smith trial end date

By Sarina Trangle

Judge Kenneth Karas plans to poll jurors about whether they can serve longer in the federal corruption trial of state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), former Bayside Councilman Dan Halloran and ex-vice chairman of the Queens GOP Vincent Tabone Tuesday and then decide whether to delay proceedings or declare a mistrial, according to prosecutors’ press representative.

The judge intends to ask jurors wether they could take a week or two break and then return to federal court in White Plains, according to Herb Hadad, a spokesman for prosecutors.

He said if enough jurors can stay past the previously anticipated conclusion of the trial, the judge would likely grant a continuance or delay.

If not, a mistrial is likely.

Attorneys representing the Queens trio, who are charged with participating in Smith’s alleged scheme to bribe his way onto the GOP line for the 2013 mayoral election, had urged the judge to dismiss the indictments and call a mistrial because they said the government did not turn over Yiddish conversations quickly enough for them to prepare for proceedings.

Judge Kenneth Karas instructed prosecutors and defense attorneys to submit documents detailing their arguments over the weekend and he called a conference Monday morning to attempt to resolve the dispute.

Defense attorneys sought time to analyze recordings involving Moses Stern, a Rockland County developer who agreed to cooperate with the government after pleading guilty to unspecified charges. The lawyers said Stern’s conversations in Yiddish, particularly with Jewish leaders who introduced him to defendants, may be central to their entrapment arguments.

Prosecutors argued in court documents that government agents’ actions, not their intentions, were central to entrapment arguments. They said defense attorneys could have requested more of the 9,000 calls and text messages captured on a wiretap of Sterns’ phone sooner, but that a brief continuance or break from the trial would be acceptable.

“A continuance would afford defense counsel an adequate opportunity to review any recording it deems material, while preserving judicial resources invested in this trial and respecting the empaneled jury’s commitment of time and attention to this case,” the prosecutors wrote. “The more dramatic remedies sought by the defendants are last resorts that are inappropriate here.”

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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