The FBI arrested New York state Sen. Malcolm A. Smith (D) and five others including Republican New York City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III in an elaborate plot to secure Smith the Republican mayoral nomination for New York City. According to the New York Times, Smith paid bribes to multiple individuals in hopes of securing their endorsements to run as a Republican.
Smith, 54, was taken from his Queens home Tuesday morning in handcuffs. Halloran was arrested at the same time. Among others taken into custody included Republican leaders from Queens and the Bronx, Noramie F. Jasmin, who is the mayor of Spring Valley, New York, as well as her deputy, Joseph A. Desmaret.
Gerald L. Shargel, attorney for Smith, told reporters that his client has done nothing wrong, “Malcolm Smith is a dedicated and highly respected public servant and he steadfastly denies these charges.” The lawyer said he would address the charges further when he has had a chance to study them.
Smith and the Republicans are charged with an elaborate scheme in which Smith paid Halloran to provide him with access to Republican officials so that they would agree to sign statements that Smith should be allowed to run for mayor as a Republican even though he is a registered Democrat. In return, they were paid lavish fees and promised that Smith would steer lucrative projects to their districts.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed the case Tuesday morning, in which an undercover FBI agent disguised as a wealthy real estate tycoon helped facilitate the deals agreeing to provide the fees, which ranged from $10,000 to $50,000. The undercover agent and a cooperating witness served as go-betweens for Halloran, Smith and other officials.
Halloran set up meetings in which the cooperating witness and the FBI agent met with Bronx GOP chairperson Joseph J. Savino and Queens Republican Party Vice President Vincent Tabone. Savino and Tabone negotiated with the agent as to the amount of the bribes necessary to secure their endorsement. Halloran himself netted $10,000 from the various deals.
Tabone is already a paid consultant in the mayoral campaign of Republican grocery magnate John Catsimatidis. Halloran recently publicly endorsed Republican candidate Joseph J. Lhota.
Smith joined a coalition of Democrats who ceded control of the state senate to New York Republicans in December of 2012. The 2012 election left Democrats with a slim majority in the 63-member senate, but Smith and a group of so-called Independent Democrats led by Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) elected to work out a power-sharing agreement with Republicans. They formed a permanent third delegation in the governing body, thereby handing the position of Senate Majority Leader to Republican Sen. Dean Skelos of Stockville.
In a statement, Klein and Skelos said, “Under the unprecedented agreement, the Independent Democratic Conference will be formally recognized as a third, permanent Senate conference. Senator Klein and Senator Skelos will assume the roles of Conference Leader for their respective conferences and will administer joint and equal authority.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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