BY JOE MARVILLI
The trial for State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and former councilman Dan Halloran has begun.
The two accused men made their way to the U.S. District Court in White Plains on June 2 to begin their federal corruption trial, a case that has been more than a year in the making. Joining them in court is co-defendant Vincent Tabone, the former vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party.
The first two days of the trial were spent seating a jury, a process that was complicated by legal wrangling. Opening statements began on Wednesday.
The trial is the culmination of a long road that started in the spring of 2013.
Federal agents arrested Smith and Halloran the morning of April 2, 2013, indicting them for attempting to rig the then-upcoming mayoral election. According to the criminal complaint, Smith tried to run for mayor on the GOP ticket and paid off Halloran in exchange for setting up meetings with Republican leaders to gain their support.
Smith agreed to bribe Republican leaders to obtain a Wilson Pakula, an authorization by a political party that allows a candidate to run on its ticket for an election, despite not being registered with that party. The criminal complaint states that the Senator had communicated with a confidential cooperating witness and an FBI agent posing as a real estate developer about his plan.
According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Smith allegedly arranged for $40,000 in cash bribes to go to Tabone and Bronx Republican Chairman Jay Savino, the latter whom pled guilty to corruption charges last November. Halloran is said to have received $20,500 for helping Smith.
As the trial date approached, Smith and Halloran both asked for their trial to be postponed. In February, Smith’s defense attorney, Gerald Shargel, asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas to delay the trial so he could have a “fair election” this fall. Last month, Halloran tried to use an insanity defense to delay the trial, claiming that a 2012 surgery to remove a brain tumor was responsible for his role in the scheme.
The judge denied attempts to delay the trial and said that Halloran’s insanity plea came six months after the deadline for pretrial motions and there was not enough evidence to back it up.
In the last pretrial ruling, Karas said the jury would be allowed to hear secretly recorded discussions regarding published reports that link Smith to controversies in the award of a casino contract at Aqueduct racetrack.
Besides the trial, Smith is facing a primary for his seat from former councilman Leroy Comrie, attorney Clyde Vanel, attorney Munir Avery and Bernadette Semple. Halloran chose not to seek re-election last year and his seat went to Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside).
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.