The bribery and corruption trial of state senator Malcolm Smith has taken a turn for the bizarre, as the case is on hold in part to allow for the translation of 28 hours of conversations in Yiddish, and the judge could throw out the charges altogether. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Malcolm Smith's attorney, Gerald Shargel, wants to hit the reset button.
"Well, we're asking for a mistrial," Shargel said.
The reason: some 90 hours of tapes never turned over to the defense until this week.
The conversations involve Moses Stern, a Rockland County businessman who turned government informant to reduce his own sentence on fraud charges. Stern is at the center of the scheme whereby Smith allegedly arranged to bribe local Republican party leaders, including co-defendant Vincent Tabone, so they'd allow Smith, a Democrat, to run on the Republican line for mayor. Then-City Councilman Dan Halloran, another co-defendant, allegedly helped broker the bribes.
Defense attorneys said an initial review suggests the recordings could bolster their case.
"What we've just found in two days alone is stuff beneficial to our client," said Vinoo Varghese, Halloran's attorney.
Halloran's attorney wants the judge to go further than a mistrial, which could allow the men to be re-tried. Instead, he’s asking the indictment be dismissed based on prosecutorial misconduct.
"Our argument is that the government should not be allowed to re-try this case because they should have been aware of this and turned this over long ago," Varghese said.
For now, the trial here in White Plains is on hold. Complicating matters is that 28 hours of the recordings are in Yiddish. Prosecutors said they have a team of Yiddish translators working through the weekend. Defense attorneys said they'll need more time.
Q: Twenty-eight hours of Yiddish, that’s not an easy task?
Leo Ahern, attorney for Tabone: That's not easy, and I don't know anybody who knows Yiddish. Do you? Oy vey.
The judge has put off any decision until Monday morning. At that point, he could dismiss the indictment altogether, or declare a mistrial. He could also just give the defense more time to review the tapes, or simply resume the trial where it left off. Jurors have told they won't be needed back until Tuesday.