DIGEST : Senator Malcolm Smith found guilty ; Change in Queens Assembly delegation leadership

By LOUIS FLORES

Former State Senator Malcolm Smith was found guilty on four counts of federal corruption charges.  Source :  New York State Senate/YouTube Screen Shot

Former State Senator Malcolm Smith was found guilty on four counts of federal corruption charges.  Source :  New York State Senate/YouTube Screen Shot

Former State Senator Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) was found guilty by a jury in a federal corruption trial.  His co-defendant, former Queens Republican Party operative Vincent Tabone, was also found guilty.   

According to the jury's findings, former State Senator made bribes and engaged in extortion, and Mr. Tabone accepted bribes and engaged in witness tampering.  Both men also engaged in conspiracy and wire fraud, said a statement by federal prosecutors.  

Both men were tried together on federal corruption charges as part of a scheme for then State Senator Smith to buy his way onto the Republican Party ballot in the 2013 New York City mayoral race.  The jury trial, which was presided over in a White Plains federal courtroom by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas, lasted four weeks. 

Another accomplice in the scheme, former Councilmember Daniel Halloran (D-Whitestone), was found guilty in a previous federal trial.

“As the jury unanimously found, the give-and-take of the political process should not be the giving and taking of bribes, which is what Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone tried to make it.  Smith gave, and Tabone took, a $25,000 cash bribe to permit Smith to run for New York City Mayor as a Republican," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office tried the case, adding that, "Smith and Tabone were not alone in this scheme – Smith also bribed Daniel Halloran, another Republican Party official.  And sadly, this was just one of many pockets of corruption this Office has uncovered in New York, which has become the ‘show me the money’ state.  It should not be asking too much to expect public officials at least to obey the law.  This Office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption until every public official understands that violating the public trust will likely land you in prison.”

Both former Senator Smith and Mr. Tabone must reappear in federal court before Judge Karas on July 1 for sentencing.

Gerald Shargel, the attorney representing former State Senator Smith in the federal criminal trial, did not answer a request to be interviewed by Progress Queens.

U.S. Attorney Bharara has been almost the sole prosecutor, who has been investigating public corruption cases.  Last month, U.S. Attorney Bharara's office ordered the bombshell arrest of former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) on five counts of corruption.

The corruption investigations by federal prosecutors were augmented by a surprise arrest of Councilember Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) on five counts of having filed false disclosure statements.  The case against Councilmember Wills was brought by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York), who rarely ventures into any kind of corruption cases.  

As Chris Bragg noted in a report published by Crain's New York Business, two other local politicians, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Harlem) and Public Advocate Tish James (D-New York City) have had to previously amend disclosure statements, but they did not face criminal charges for their wrong-doings.

A request for comment was sent too late to the office of the attorney representing Councilmember Wills.  If a response is received, then that information shall appear in a future update.  

Change in State Assembly leadership amongst the Queens delegation

After the highly-anticipated selection of Assemblymember Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) as the next speaker of the State Assembly, the new Assembly speaker made one change in Assembly committee leadership posts.

Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Queens) lost his chair post on the Small Business Committee, according to a press statement made by the office of Speaker Heastie.  Assemblymember Fred Thiele, Jr. (D-The Hamptons) was named as temporary chair.

Assemblymember Scarborough was arrested last October on state and federal corruption charges stemming from his alleged misuse campaign funds and falsified travel expense reimbursements, respectively. 

State officials face increasing pressure to purge corrupt leaders and enact reforms under the watchful eye of U.S. Attorney Bharara, who has ominously advised the public to "stay tuned" for more corruption cases to follow.