By Sadef Ali Kully
Former southeast Queens state Sen. Malcolm Smith was found guilty on all counts Thursday at his corruption trial in federal court in White Plains, his attorney said.
The jury also convicted former Queens GOP Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone of accepting a bribe as part of a scheme to get Smith a spot on the Republican line in the
2013 mayoral race.
Smith, who had help leadership positions in Albany, and Tabone were tried separately from former City Councilman Dan Halloran, whose case was severed last year. Smith was charged with fraud, racketeering and bribery, while Tabone was accused of wire fraud and bribery.
The indictments of the three political figures in the payoff scandal rocked the Queens political arena.
“It was a very difficult circumstance to try the case,” said Gerald Shargel, Smith’s attorney, who said he will be appealing the verdict.
Smith was arrested and charged with bribing GOP officials to run in the 2013 mayoral race. Prosecutors said Tabone accepted $20,000 on behalf of Smith from an undercover FBI agent.
“Although we respect the voice of the jury, we are very disappointed in the outcome of the trial,” said Tabone’s attorney, Samuel Braverman, who will file a motion for a new trial and will be appealing the verdict.
“We believe that the evidence was insufficient to prove that our client participated in any bribery scheme. In fact, his words on the tape indicated the very opposite,”
Both, Tabone and Smith were scheduled to be sentenced July 1, Smith faces up to 45 years behind bars, while Tabone faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.
In July, Halloran was found guilty of masterminding the scheme to install Smith in the mayoral contest. His sentencing is on the calendar for March.
The corruption case has seen a few mishaps. The judge declared a mistrial due to delayed evidence, which forced Halloran to seek his own trial because he was struggling to pay his legal fees.
In the second trial, winter weather delayed the jury deliberation and one juror was sick The trial lasted four weeks and included hours of audio and video recordings.
“As the jury unanimously found, the give-and-take of the political process should not be the giving and taking of bribes, which is what Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone tried to make it. Smith gave, and Tabone took,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara after their convictions.
“It should not be asking too much to expect public officials at least to obey the law. This office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption until every public official understands that violating the public trust will likely land you in prison,” he said..
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.