If former Democratic New York State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's harebrained scheme to bribe himself onto the GOP line for the 2013 race for NYC mayor wasn't ridiculous enough for you, the details, the players, the secret video and audio recordings, and the rather novel defense offered by Smith's attorneys — all of it — are sure to satisfy.
So far this week we've met an FBI agent who went by "Raj" who claimed he wanted to be "in on the ground floor" of a Smith administration, the Republican bosses of Queens, Bronx and New York counties and a guy who turned informant after stealing $100 million from Citigroup. We've seen video of envelopes stuffed with marked cash change hands in the same midtown Manhattan steak house where John Gotti and Sammy "the bull" Gravano had Gambino boss Paul Castellano whacked. We've even heard co-defendant Vincent Tabone, a former Queens GOP chair, describe himself as a "bagman for a Republican billionaire," referring to grocery magnate and magnificent specimen of humanity John Catsimatidis, "for years."
So yeah, if you thought the first trial for Smith and Tabone, the one from last summer that ended in a mistrial and where Tabone claimed he was too drunk to know right from wrong when he accepted a $20,000 cash bribe was entertaining, you're going to love the sequel, now playing in a courtroom in White Plains.
You're especially going to love the heartwarming story of the Democrat angling to be the GOP candidate out of nothing more than a burning passion for public service. That's the story being peddled by Smith's big time, big money attorneys and it's…freaking adorable.
Smith's legal team hopes to show that he wanted a position of power so that he could do more for the people of New York.
Smith's lead lawyer, infamous criminal defense attorney Gerald Shargel (who, ironically, made his bones defending John Gotti), went after the political fixer and embezzler-turned-informant first.
Shargel first sought to impugn the reputation of Moses "Mark" Stern, a cooperating witness in the government's investigation. Stern was charged with stealing more than $100 million from Citigroup before working with the F.B.I. in the corruption probe. Stern was recorded boasting of delivering the 2010 state attorney general election to Eric Schneiderman. (Schneiderman later donated his campaign contributions from Stern to charity.)
And then he trained his sights on "Raj," the undercover FBI agent who had portrayed himself to the other players as a deep pocketed real estate developer who stood to gain financially if Smith were elected mayor of New York City. He got "Raj" to admit that he never actually saw any cash stuffed envelopes land in or leave Smith's hands. Shargel then went after fake plans "Raj" presented to Smith for a community center in Rockland County, which, it should be noted, is not located in either Smith's former Queens state senate district, not within the confines of the city smith wished to serve as mayor.
Smith's lawyers allege that he helped kickstart the project because of its economic impact, not because its developers were political contributors.
Of course not. That never happens.
So Smith, who once rather boldly offered to essentially sell access and votes like an IPO of official corruption, had nothing but the welfare of New Yorkers in his heart when $200,000 worth of cash was changing hands all over the city in an effort to secure him the GOP ballot line for mayor. Smith in no way was doing favors for those he believed could help him become mayor of New York City by helping them build a community center that never existed. The FBI entrapped him. Or something.
That's their story and they're sticking to it.
Shargel's cross examinations will resume this morning. It should be awesome.
Originally posted at The Albany Project.
(image via Wikipedia)