New York Politicians Charged In Bid To Rig NYC Mayoral Race
Two New York politicians, one from eact party, have been arrested in what officials are calling a plot to rig the NYC Mayoral Race:
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, who rose to become the first black president of the State Senate, and City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III were arrested early Tuesday on charges of trying to illicitly get Mr. Smith on the ballot for this year’s mayoral race in New York City, according to federal prosecutors.
Mr. Smith, a Queens Democrat, and Mr. Halloran, a Queens Republican, were among a half-dozen people arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in the corruption case. The others were Joseph J. Savino, the Bronx G.O.P. chairman, Vincent Tabone, vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party, Noramie F. Jasmin, the mayor of the Rockland County village of Spring Valley, and her deputy, Joseph A. Desmaret, according to a criminal complaint.
Mr. Smith, 56, was taken from his home in handcuffs by F.B.I. agents before sunrise and Mr. Halloran, a lawyer, was arrested about the same time, law enforcement authorities said.
Mr. Smith, a contractor and real estate developer, has said he was considering running for mayor as a Republican, and the charges contend that he made payments to Mr. Halloran in exchange for the councilman’s assistance in setting up meetings with Republican leaders as part of an effort to get on the ballot, the complaint said.
The criminal complaint was filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and was unsealed Tuesday morning. Mr. Smith, Mr. Halloran and the others were to appear later Tuesday before a United States magistrate judge in United States District Court in White Plains.
Mr. Smith, according to the complaint, agreed with a cooperating witness and an undercover F.B.I. agent, who was masquerading as a wealthy real estate developer, to pay off leaders of Republican county committees in New York’s five boroughs. The bribes were to be paid to obtain specific certificates authorizing him to run for mayor as a Republican even though he was a registered Democrat.
The undercover agent and the cooperating witness served as intermediaries between the senator and Mr. Halloran, the complaint said.
”Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney in Manhattan whose office is prosecuting the case, said in a statement. “The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself. As alleged, Senator Malcolm Smith tried to bribe his way to a shot at Gracie Mansion – Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes.”
Mr. Smith’s lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, said his client denied wrongdoing. “Malcolm Smith is a dedicated and highly respected public servant and he steadfastly denies these charges,” Mr. Shargel said, adding that he would have more to say after he had an opportunity to study the charges.
Lawyers for Mr. Savino and Mr. Tabone, Kevin B. Faga and Vito A. Palimieri, could not immediately be reached for comment and the lawyers who were representing the other defendants could not immediately be determined.
The complaint details a brazen scheme involving the mayoral race hatched in a series of clandestine meetings in hotels, parked cars, a restaurant on Valentine’s Day and even in Mr. Smith’s office in Albany. The meetings, recorded by the undercover agent or the cooperating witness, were primarily among Mr. Smith, the undercover agent and the witness, and Mr. Halloran and the two government operatives. The scheme involving the race was one of three bribery schemes charged in the case.
Most of those involved, according to the complaint, were looking for something – cash bribes were sought by the party officials and Mr. Halloran, a former police officer, and Mr. Smith was seeking authorization to get his name on the ballot. Ms. Jasmin wanted an ownership interest in a company she believed was involved in a real estate deal, the complaint says, and Mr. Smith promised to steer $500,000 in state transportation funds to that project.
And at least one of the defendants was also looking for something – a way to avoid going to jail. George Venizelos, an assistant F.B.I. director, said in a statement that Mr. Tabone, clearly aware that the bribery scheme was illegal, patted down the undercover FBI agent at one point to see if he was wearing a recording device. “He was,” Mr. Venizelos said, “but Tabone was less skilled at conducting a pat-down than he was at conducting a shake-down.”
At the same time, Mr. Tabone, according to the complaint, was so confident that he boasted to the undercover agent when he was asked if he could deliver the certification:
“Nobody else runs the party,” he said, according to the complaint, “I run the party.”
This has to qualify as one of the more convoluted and bizarre episodes of political corruption I’ve seen in quite some time.