At Dan Halloran corruption trial, testimony focuses on Bloomberg campaign workers

Former Councilman Dan Halloran enters U.S. District Court Former Councilman Dan Halloran enters U.S. District Court in White Plains during jury selection for a fraud and bribery trial. Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran on Thursday testified at his federal corruption trial that ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 2009 campaign hired at least eight low-level political operatives who might have had a say in letting him run as a Republican.

Halloran, charged with helping bribe Republican county leaders to let Queens Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith run on the GOP line for mayor in 2013, contended during the eight-week trial that Bloomberg's hiring of Republican pols made him think the Smith scheme was OK.

But during a tough cross-examination, a prosecutor grilled Halloran on key differences, noting the Bloomberg campaign workers were small fries without clout, while the party bigwigs at a steakhouse dinner attended by Halloran last year got wads of cash as part of a quid pro quo.

"None of them were county chairmen, were they? . . . None of them were vice chairmen?" asked prosecutor Douglas Bloom. " . . . But the people who met at Sparks Steakhouse were chairmen and vice chairmen, weren't they?"

"Yes," answered Halloran, completing testimony in his own defense after six days on the witness stand in federal court in White Plains.

Halloran, a Queens Republican, is charged with bribery conspiracy, accused of taking more than $20,000 from two FBI operatives posing as corrupt developers to assist Smith, a former Senate majority leader who needed permission from Republican county leaders to cross party lines. Halloran contends the payments were all proper consulting and legal fees.

Smith, who claims he was entrapped, is to be tried next year with ex-Queens GOP vice chairman Vincent Tabone, who took $25,000.

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Former Bronx GOP chairman Joseph Savino pleaded guilty and testified against Halloran.

Halloran fought throughout the trial to get in evidence about Bloomberg -- an independent who in 2009 had to follow the same procedure as Smith to run as a Republican -- and, over Bloom's objections, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas finally let him describe his findings on Bloomberg's 2009 campaign.

The eight campaign workers he identified were members of the Staten Island, Queens and Bronx GOP committees who, in theory, could have voted on letting Bloomberg run as a Republican, he said.

But he conceded that he didn't know whether any of them actually participated in the decision, and said only five went on the campaign payroll before the decision to let Bloomberg run as a Republican.

Prosecutors claim decisions are made by county political leaders, not low-level committee members.

@Newsday

Closing arguments are expected on Friday.

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