Former NY Sen. Malcolm Smith Gets 7 Years in Prison for Mayoral Race Bribe Plot

Former Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison in a scheme to bribe his way onto the ballot for the 2013 New York City mayoral election. 

His co-defendant, Vincent Tabone, the former Queens Republican vice chairman, was awaiting sentencing later Wednesday.

The two were convicted in February of crimes that included bribery conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion. When they were arrested, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the case illustrated a "culture of corruption" in New York politics.

"Smith abused his position of public trust and encouraged others to do so for his own personal benefit. Tabone violated the trust placed in him by his fellow party members in an effort to enrich himself through quid pro quo bribery, and then brazenly tried to prevent the leader of his own party from testifying against him," prosecutors said this week in asking for lengthy prison terms. They called the defendants' conduct "truly egregious."

Smith's lawyer said he would appeal.

"Obviously I'm disappointed. I think Malcolm Smith was entrapped," lawyer Gerald Shargel said after the sentencing.

Shargel had requested a year and a day sentence, arguing Smith deserved a lighter sentence because he had been lured into the scheme by a government informant whom the lawyer called a "scoundrel."

In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas said: "If Smith had said no to the scoundrel, we wouldn't be here."

Smith, who chose not to address the court, had no visible reaction to the sentence. He is scheduled to surrender Sept. 21. He left court without speaking to reporters.

The pair's convictions came the same week that longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, stepped down from his leadership post in the face of federal charges that he accepted nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks.

In 2013, prosecutors said, Smith wanted to be mayor but also wanted to avoid a Democratic mayoral primary. So he instead decided to obtain the backing of Republican leaders in three boroughs, which would allow him to run for the GOP line, the indictment said. Prosecutors said he authorized bribes totaling about $200,000.

Jurors saw video recordings of transactions that prosecutors said were bribes, and they heard testimony from an FBI informant identified only as "Raj" who had posed as a wealthy real estate developer and was in on meetings involving Smith and Republican leaders.

Of four other politicians who were arrested with Smith and Tabone, two have been convicted and two have pleaded guilty.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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