By Sarina Trangle
Daniel Halloran may be the most talkative witness in his federal corruption trial.
Contending prosecutors took his comments out of context and failed to understand he was legally acting as a political consultant, the former Republican city councilman has spent several days on the witness stand detailing precisely what he meant in hours of conversations secretly recorded by undercover FBI agents and a cooperating witness.
Halloran is on trial for allegedly acting as a power broker in what prosecutors described as an elaborate ploy by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) to bribe his way onto the GOP ticket in the 2013 mayoral elections.
Prosecutors maintain Halloran received about $20,500 for negotiating Smith’s deals with borough GOP leaders and requested that he be named the deputy police commissioner if the southeast Queens senator made it to Gracie Mansion.
In another alleged scheme, prosecutors said Halloran agreed to direct city discretionary funding to Moses Stern, a wealthy developer cooperating with the government, and an FBI agent posing as his business partner in exchange for $24,800 in donations for his own failed congressional bid.
Halloran, wearing dark suits, bright ties and a staple American flag pin, often turned toward jurors and spoke rapidly while rhapsodizing about everything from his lifelong relationship with the Boy Scouts to the intricacies of election law.
Halloran said the government misinterpreted his statements during a September 2012 meeting with Stern, where prosecutors allege Halloran accepted a cash bribe.
“That’s politics, it’s all about how much,” prosecutors said Halloran was recorded saying. “You can’t do anything without the f—ing money.”
The ex-legislator said he was upset that his opponent, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), had amassed a large campaign war chest while he struggled to raise money for his 2012 congressional run.
“I was angry that this is what politics had come down to,” he said.
Halloran described the money as a loan and personal favor from Stern, which would boost his credit and help refinance his mortgage amid a divorce.
The Republican also took issue with prosecutors’ understandings of over-the-counter and under-the-counter offers he made.
Prosecutors previously played a recording of Halloran’s meeting with Stern Jan. 17, 2013, in the Francis Lewis Pastry Shoppe in the Broadway section of Flushing.
“Is Vince difficult to get on board?” Stern asked, according to a transcript of the conversation.
“Only because of Catsimatidis and the money. But if you’re going to show him a way that he can both legitimately over-the-table make money for the party, and under-the-table do what we gotta do, I think that’s the answer,” Halloran said, according to the transcript.
Halloran said his use of the term under-the-table did not refer to bribing former Queens GOP Chairman Vince Tabone, but rather to covertly putting him on Smith’s campaign staff so Tabone would have an income if his boss, then mayoral-candidate John Catsimatidis, found out he was backing an opponent.
Tabone and Smith were originally on trial with Halloran, but they were granted a mistrial because of delays in getting transcripts. Halloran chose to proceed alone.
Even as Halloran argued he sought to woo Stern, an Orthodox leader he thought would be instrumental in securing Jewish votes, his attorney played a recording of Halloran saying he did not think Smith would be able to “Jew down” Tabone.
“He was going to lose his day job,” Halloran said of Tabone.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.