2013-04-05 / Front Page

State Senator Malcolm Smith Arrested

By Dan Guarino

The news traveled quickly. The headlines splashed across newspapers and television. The internet was all a buzz.

On Tuesday, April 2nd, at approximately 6:30 a.m., State Senator Malcolm Smith was taken into custody at his home by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to the complaint presented to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Davison of the NY Southern District Court, for the warrants of arrest, Smith and five other defendants are accused of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, wire fraud, extortion and mail fraud.

Smith was first elected to the New York State Senate in 2000 and represents the 14th Senatorial District in Queens. He started his career in city politics in 1986 as an aide to former congressman, Reverend Floyd Flake.

The others arrested along with Smith include NYC Councilmember Dan Halloran, NYC Republican county leaders Vincent Tabone and Joseph Savino, and Noramie Jasmin and Joseph Desmaret, the mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, of the Village of Spring Valley, in Rockland County.

A statement issued by the FBI later that morning confirmed that the charges stemmed “from an undercover investigation of three distinct but relat- ed bribery schemes involving public corruption.”

The case which led to the arrests was built in part on recorded conversations between the defendants and both a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent posing as a wealthy real estate developer.

Transcriptions of these exchanges are quoted extensively in the official complaint. Details include the date, amount, form of payment (check or cash) and location where the payments were made.

According to the official complaint document, “In the first scheme, Smith allegedly arranged for cash bribes totaling $40,000 to be paid to Vincent Tabone and Joseph Savino, two New York City Republican county leaders, as part of an effort by Smith, who is a Democrat, to appear on the Republican primary ballot as a mayoral candidate in the 2013 election. Halloran is alleged to have received approximately $20,500 in cash bribes to act as an intermediary with Tabone and Savino on Smith’s behalf.”

Included are specific records of payments made to Halloran to be used, in part, “to bribe New York City Republican Party committee leaders.”

In the second scheme, Halloran allegedly received “approximately $18,300 in cash bribes and $6,500 in straw donor campaign contribution checks in exchange for agreeing to steer up to $80,000 of New York City Council discretionary funding to a company he believed was controlled by those who paid him the bribes”.

Democrat Smith’s intention to run for Mayor on the Republican ballot slot dates back to at least last year.

An August 2nd, 2012 NY Post article stated, “Former State Democratic Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith’s potential bid to run for mayor on the Republican line provoked swift resistance and outright opposition from the city’s stunned GOP leaders yesterday.”

It went on to say, “Smith, a Queens state senator who expects to remain a Democrat, would need the support of at least three of the city’s five county Republican leaders to run on the GOP line for mayor next year.”

The current bribery charges appear to stem from Smith’s alleged illegal attempt to gain that support.

Rockaway has seen a great deal of Smith in the past few months as he has sponsored and hosted several Sandy Recovery Town Hall meetings.

Hundreds of residents attended the sessions to get information and share ideas on how federal hurricane relief funds should be spent.

Smith served as co-chair of the Bipartisan Senate Task Force on Hurricane Sandy Recovery.

In a swift reversal of his political fortunes, within hours of his arrest, Smith was stripped of his Senate leadership position and all committee assignments.

Said Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeffrey Klein, “These are very serious allegations that, if true, constitute a clear betrayal of the public trust. As a result of these charges, I have made the decision to strip Senator Smith of his committee assignments and of his conference leadership position. By participating in the alleged scheme, Senator Smith breached the trust of the Independent Democratic Conference.”

According to his website, Smith served as Vice Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman of the Independent Democratic Conference, Chair of the Senate Social Service Committee, Co-Chair of the Budget Sub- Committee on Super Storm Sandy recovery and Co-Chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy Relief.

Additionally he served on the Codes, Education, Environmental Conservation, Housing, Construction, and Community Development, Judiciary, NYC Education Subcommittee, NYS Conference of Black Senators, NYS Black, Latino, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus and Transportation Committees.

If convicted of the federal conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion charges, Smith could face up to 45 years in prison.

In a statement released on the day of his arrest, Smith declared he would be vindicated.

His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, confirmed that Smith denies any wrongdoing.

Said Shargel, “Malcolm Smith is a dedicated public servant who has served both the state of New York and his constituents in an exemplary fashion,” Shargel said. “He steadfastly denies the allegations that are contained in the complaint.”

Reached for comment on the case, NY State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo advised the Wave, “I have a policy not to comment about an ongoing investigation or legal matter.”

State Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder also declined to comment.

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