During jury selection Monday for the trial of state Sen. Thomas Libous, 35 potential jurors were asked if they had heard anything about other New York state officials being charged with crimes.
The answer was a peal of laughter.
Libous, a Republican who is charged with lying to the FBI, is just one of several state lawmakers caught up in a corruption crackdown. Among those charged are the former leaders of both houses, Republican Sen. Dean Skelos and Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver. Former state Sen. Malcolm Smith was convicted earlier this year.
The fact that jurors know about those cases worries Libous' lawyer, Paul DerOhannesian.
"It's one of my biggest concerns," he said after 12 jurors and three alternates were seated. He said he feared Libous, the deputy majority leader, would be lumped in with other arrested or convicted legislators and presumed guilty.
But federal Judge Vincent Briccetti asked several jurors if they could still be "fair and impartial" in Libous' case despite publicity about the other cases, and all said they could. DerOhannessian said, "That's all you can ask for."
Opening arguments were scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Libous is accused of lying seven times during a probe into whether he arranged a job for his son, Matthew, by promising extra business for the law firm that hired him. His son has been convicted of tax crimes.
Libous, who has been battling cancer, walked stiffly Monday and used a specially padded chair in the courtroom. He said he recently had 250 stitches along his spine after surgery.
He also said he's determined to win the trial and hold onto his leadership post in the Senate.
"This trial has given me the determination and strength to show my innocence and to get better," he said. "I'm elected through next year and I have every intention of successfully continuing my job."
Libous faces up to five years in prison if convicted.