Sunday, December 21, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Notes from a Political Mistrial With Pagans and Strippers

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Like a Cheshire cat counting his lives, State Senator Malcolm Smith can smile a little bit more today after a mistrial was declared in his federal corruption trial in Westchester.

Before his legal headaches, Smith was best remembered as the first Democrat to rule the State Senate in decades -- who then failed to notice a coup brewing that would topple him and his party from power back in 2009. That lack of political acuity is probably not something you'd desire in a resident of Gracie Mansion but Smith started dreaming about running for mayor in 2013 – as a Republican. I did say dreaming, right?

Federal prosecutors say that with the help of former City Councilman Dan Halloran, Smith tried to bribe his way onto the ballot. Smith likely wanted to harness Halloran's unique skill set as the Queens lawmaker was one of the few Republicans in the City Council as well as the only worshipping pagan in the chamber.

The case – which ensnared three Republican leaders – was tantalizing reporters on almost a daily basis with The Times' Joseph Berger almost drooling as he noted that the testimony "included reports of cash-stuffed envelopes delivered as bribes, boozy visits to strip clubs and a scheme that teamed a developer desperate to reduce his own likely prison sentence with an undercover federal agent known as Raj."

Alas, a timeout has been declared in this weird soap opera as federal prosecutors apparently failed to turn over to the defense hours and hours of wiretapped conversations – in Yiddish.

Smith's trial has now been moved to January – allowing voters to head to the polls this fall and decide whether to re-elect him. Trying not to duck his day job, Smith put out almost daily e-mail advisories during the trial, including one encouraging his job-seeking constituents to consider applying to become a court officer. (I'm not joking.)

Halloran is likely facing the federal music next week, however, with his trial moving forward after the Yiddish recordings are translated. (Somewhere Isaac Bashevis Singer is smiling.) And Halloran's lawyer yesterday revealed his client's future plans: "Hopefully, this trial will be over in a couple weeks, and we'll be speaking to you then, so that he can now go back to his life and go back to a life in the law, go back to a life in politics."

Be still, my heart.

Bob Hardt

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