Malcom Smith convicted of bribery

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

Former State Democratic Sen. Malcom Smith was convicted by a jury on February 5 of attempting to rig the 2013 New York City Mayoral race in his favor with $200,000 in bribes.

Smith, who once led the Senate as the Democratic majority leader, was slapped with charges of bribery, wire fraud and extortion, charges which carry a combined penalty of up to 50 years behind bars. According to prosecutors, the disgraced senator attempted to bribe various NYC Republican leaders with thousands of dollars.

Smith was arrested during a statewide sting operation in 2013 after an FBI agent posing as a real estate developer and Moses Stern, a Rockland real estate developer and fraudster-turned-informant, engineered a fake deal wherein the then-senator would guarantee $500,000 in funds for a Spring Valley transit project in exchange for financial support.

The funds would be used to bribe NYC Republican leaders Vincent Tabone and Joseph Savino with a combined $40,000 in payments so they would allow Smith to run as a Republican. According to the agent, Tabone was personally handed $25,000, while Savino received $15,000.

Instead, a wide-reaching anti-corruption probe unsealed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara snagged all three, along with former NYC Councilman Daniel Halloran, who was paid $20,000 to act as a liaison between Smith and the Republicans. The FBI’s trojan horse project in Spring Valley also led to the arrests of Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret. Jasmin is awaiting trial while Desmaret pled guilty.

Bharara, who made a name for himself in recent years with high-profile prosecutions in state-level corruption cases, stated the Smith case was just one of many instances of misconduct which his office had uncovered.

“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,” Bharara said in a statement issued by his office. “And sadly, this was just one of many pockets of corruption this office has uncovered in New York, which has become the ‘show me the money’ state.”

The U.S. Attorney is also managing the case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, another high-profile Democrat who will face five federal charges for accepting kickbacks from a NYC law firm for do-nothing work.

Savino pled guilty and cut a deal to testify as a witness, while Tabone was convicted on Thursday on the same charges leveled against Smith and now faces up to 25 years in prison. Halloran was convicted in July.

Smith and Tabone have already announced that they plan to appeal. Barring a successful appeal, they will be sentenced on July 1.   Rumors have been spread in mass media that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneidermann may also be the subject of Bharara’s wide-ranging probe into the closed Moreland Commission. Notably, Scheidermann utilized Stern as his main fundraiser and liaison to the Hasidic community in Rockland and was very close friends with Smith during his stint as state senator.