BY JOE MARVILLI
Another accused member of the federal corruption scandal plaguing State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) is asking for a reprieve until after this year’s election cycle.
Former Queens Republican Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone has asked for his federal corruption trial to be pushed back until after the November elections, claiming that key GOP campaign strategies would be exposed if it proceeded any earlier. While the prosecution is looking for a trial start date around June 2, Tabone’s lawyer, Deborah Misir, wants it delayed for at least six months.
Smith had made a similar request two weeks ago, asking that the trial be pushed back until at least October, so he can get through the Primary in his mainly Democratic district.
Misir sent a letter on Feb. 14 to the Hon. Kenneth Karas to argue her case for the continuance of trial. Besides saying that campaign policies would be revealed, she said that the complexity and uniqueness of the case means that the defense should have more time to prepare for the case. Two legal issues of first impression are in question in this scenario, according to Misir.
The first is whether a political party volunteer breached a duty of honest services allegedly owed to the Republican Party county committees and members. The second is whether a political party volunteer violated the New York Penal Code prohibition on bribery for appointment or nomination for public office, by communicating with people who are seeking a Wilson-Pakula Authorization. That approval is given by a political party to a candidate for public office, allowing him or her to run under that party line, despite the fact that the candidate does not belong to said party.
“Our number one issue for asking the trial to be delayed is it’s a complex set of issues that has never been tried before in the U.S.,” Misir said. “My client was not an elected official. He was a volunteer of the party. In all the cases related to honest services, the federal government said it’s going to come in and try the volunteer as being disloyal to his party. This is shocking for anyone who follows law.”
If Tabone is tried regarding these questions to his honest services with the Republican Party, members of the Queens GOP would have to testify on what Tabone did for them. As a result, they would have to discuss their campaign plans, without the same repercussions for the Democratic Party.
“If we have to find out what would constitute honest services, they would ask what was your strategy in the election cycle,” Misir said. “It gives the other side an unfair advantage. You cannot use the courts to advance one party’s political interest over another. The courts have to be fair-balanced.”
Tabone has been accused of taking a $25,000 bribe as part of Smith’s failed plan to get his name on the GOP ballot for mayor. In light of the indictment, Tabone resigned as vice chairman of the Queens GOP.
Misir also said that she has requested that her client be tried separately from Smith and former councilman Dan Halloran, rather than being packaged as one conspiracy.
“Each conspiracy should be tried separately,” she said.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.