Jury selection for the federal corruption trial of state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), former Bayside Councilman Daniel Halloran and ex-vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party Vincent Tabone was slated to begin Monday in what prosecutors have described as an elaborate ploy by Smith to bribe his way onto the GOP line in a failed mayoral bid.
As a registered Democrat, Smith needed three county GOP leaders to sign a certificate called a Wilson-Pakula authorizing him to run as a Republican.
Prosecutors allege that he funneled roughly $500,000 in state transportation funding to a pseudo real estate project in exchange for recipients financing suspected bribes for Republicans’ backing, according to prosecutors.
Then City Councilman Halloran allegedly helped broker Smith’s deals and accepted roughly $60,000 in kickbacks, prosecutors said.
Tabone was charged with taking $25,000 to help Smith get on the ballot as a Republican, prosecutors said.
The pre-trial conference in White Plains federal court Friday centered on defense attorneys’ unsuccessful attempts to seek more time to review recently received transcripts and material.
Halloran’s attorney, Vinoo Varghese, argued that he should be permitted to proceed with an insanity defense despite not notifying the court within the required time frame. Varghese said he learned May 23 that Halloran had a brain tumor removed while running for Congress in May 2012 and therefore could not have filed relevant paperwork sooner.
Judge Kenneth Karas rifled through a pile of newspaper clippings, calling out references to Halloran’s malignant tumor and told Varghese he must submit affirmation swearing he was, until recently, unaware of the surgery to use an insanity defense.
Karas rebuffed many suggested questions about potential jurors’ partisan beliefs and said the inquiries, such as one about the National Security Agency’s monitoring of emails, were irrelevant.
The court was expected to choose the 12 jurors and 27 alternates Monday.
The judge also urged defense attorneys and prosecutors to come up with wording as to how cooperating witness Moses Sterns’ interaction with defendants may be framed. Stern is a developer based in Monsey, N.Y.
Prosecutor argued they needed to describe Stern’s alleged collaboration with Halloran and Smith to show why the two elected officials agreed to work together.
Lawyers for Smith said they were concerned the introduction of what prosecutors called possible campaign finance violations stemming from Stern’s involvement with Smith could devolve into a mini-trial.
Attorneys have attempted to paint Stern as untrustworthy. In a May 29 memo, Varghese called him “a massive fraudster” and said Halloran was targeted in “politically motivated prosecution.”
“Stern defrauded Citigroup out of $125,000,000. Our client has informed us that Stern boasted to our client of Stern’s connections to various New York political figures, including Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Moreover, our client has also told us that Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid $1,000,000 to obtain Wilson-Paklulas for his last mayoral campaign. Yet, prior to this trail, there have never been any Wilson-Pakula prosecutions,” Varghese wrote.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@c
©2014 Community News Group
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