Barring any last-minute surprises on Friday at a pre-trial conference, jury selection is expected to begin Monday morning in Westchester County in the matter of the United States of America v. Daniel Halloran, Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone.
The three were among six people arrested 14 months ago in an alleged scheme by state Sen. Smith (D-Hollis) to bribe Republican officials in New York City in an effort to get his name on the Republican ballot for mayor in 2013.
A spokesman for the office of Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Wednesday that opening arguments would be presented shortly after a jury is empaneled.
The government’s case centers on an alleged effort by Smith, a lifelong Democrat, to receive Wilson-Pakula certificates from at least three of the five county Republican organizations.
The certificates would amount to permission from Republican officials for Smith to seek their party’s nomination.
The Daily News and the New York Post have reported that Halloran's lawyer has requested a six-month continuance, citing the former councilman's 2012 surgery for a benign tumor as a possible basis for an insanity defense.
Halloran, the former Republican councilman from Whitestone, is alleged to have received $45,000 in bribes to act as an intermediary between Smith and GOP leadership in Queens and the Bronx.
Halloran, who at the time was one of only four Republicans on the Council, chose not to seek re-election last year. Voters replaced him with Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside).
Smith, on the other hand, is actively seeking re-election and fundraising.
He is facing a primary challenge from recently resigned Deputy Borough President Leroy Comrie, who was a popular three-term councilman; retired U.S. Navy officer Bernadette Semple; attorney Clyde Vanel; and attorney Munir Avery.
Smith’s defense team had attempted to get the trial delayed until after this September’s primary, but federal Judge Kenneth Karas was unmoved.
Lawyers for Tabone, the former deputy Queens Republican chairman, filed motions early on saying that their client’s actions did not meet state or federal standards that allow a charge of fraud. As in Smith’s pleadings, Karas was unimpressed and allowed proceedings to go forward.
Tabone, at a meeting with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a real estate developer, allegedly frisked the agent to make sure he was not wearing a wire. He was not too thorough, purportedly missing a listening device.
Former Bronx GOP Chairman Joseph Savino pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud in November.
His plea agreement hinges on continuing and full cooperation with federal prosecutors, though the Chronicle has not ascertained if he will testify during the trial.
Noramie Jasmin and Joseph Desmaret, the former mayor and deputy mayor of upstate Spring Valley, also were charged
Jasmin will go on trial after Smith, Halloran and Tabone.
Desmaret pleaded guilty to lesser charges in January. The statement issued by Bharara’s office did not say whether he had agreed to cooperate with investigators.