The corruption trial of three political leaders in New York City will center on "a man who wanted to be mayor, the bribes he was willing to pay, and the men who were ready, willing and able" to accept the bribes, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.
"These three men betrayed the public trust," prosecutor Douglas Bloom said in opening statements at the trial of state Sen. Malcolm Smith, former City Councilman Daniel Halloran and former Queens Republican leader Vincent Tabone.
Bloom said that Smith, a Democrat, offered bribes to Republican party leaders for permission to run on the GOP line. He said Halloran arranged the bribes and Tabone accepted one.
Halloran was recorded saying, "That's politics, it's all about how much," according to court papers. "Not about whether or will, it's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that."
"There wasn't $1 placed in the pocket of Malcolm Smith," countered the senator's attorney, Gerald Shargel, adding that the government's chief informant was motivated by a desire to avoid prison and tried to "entrap" Smith.
Halloran's lawyer, Vinoo Varghese, said in his opening that Halloran simply accepted legal campaign contributions or "was acting as a paid political consultant."
Tabone attorney Leo Ahearn is scheduled to present his opening statement Thursday, but he told reporters that the informant, Moses "Mark" Stern, was "one of the greatest liars and scammers of all time." He said the money that went to Tabone was "a reasonable and fair cash payment" for legal services and political help.
Smith, Halloran and Tabone were among six politicians arrested last year for what U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called a "culture of corruption."
Two politicians who were accused in the scheme have pleaded guilty: Bronx Republican leader Joseph Savino and Joseph Desmaret, former deputy mayor of Spring Valley. Former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin faces trial later this year.
The defense said that Smith, who is running for re-election to his Senate seat from Queens, plans to testify.