State Sen. Malcolm Smith and five co-defendants pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal corruption charges as prosecutors began turning over tape recordings and other documents that are expected to be used as evidence if the cases go to trial.
Smith, a Queens Democrat, is accused of scheming with New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran, a Republican from Whitestone, to bribe county Republican leaders for the GOP line on this year's mayoral ballot. Because he's a Democrat, Smith would have needed permission of three leaders to be on the GOP line of the ballot.
Smith and Halloran, along with Bronx GOP boss Joseph Savino, Queens GOP vice chairman Vincent Tabone, as well as Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph A. Desmaret, both Democrats, entered pleas of not guilty through their attorneys in a brief proceeding in U.S. District Court in White Plains.
All were indicted by a White Plains grand jury on April 18.
About two hours later, Smith, Halloran and the other defendants appeared for a brief pretrial conference before federal Judge Kenneth Karas. Assistant U.S. attorney Alvin Bragg told Karas that prosecutors were in the process of turning over audio and video recordings, transcripts and eavesdropping warrants to the defense attorneys, a process he said would take about 30 days.
Bragg noted that the materials in the case were massive and filled up computer hard drives with 150 gigabytes of capacity.
Defense attorney Dominick Porco, who is representing Jasmin, expressed concern that the full recordings, made with the help of confidential witness Mark Stern and an undercover FBI agent, will leak out. But Bragg indicated the tapes were being held under tight security. Karas adjourned the case until July 19 for the next pretrial conference.
Smith, Desmaret, Jasmin and Savino all declined to comment as they left the courthouse.
"I am innocent, I will have my day in court," said Tabone, who described himself as an unpaid Republican party volunteer.
"I entered a plea of not guilty and will be tried in a court of law under the rules of evidence," Halloran told Newsday. "I will be looking forward to it."