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Defense: keep Bronx corruption witness off stand

Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson, left, with attorney Murray

Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson, left, with attorney Murray Richman, leaves federal court in Manhattan. (April 4, 2013) Credit: Craig Ruttle

Defense attorneys in a corruption case involving Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson said Friday that they will try to keep out the testimony of a key witness on the grounds that the informant was involved in "unusual misconduct" during the undercover probe that led to the charges.

Stevenson, a Democrat, was indicted earlier this year with four other men on charges they were involved in a legislative bribery scheme related to adult day-care centers.

At a pretrial hearing before Manhattan federal Judge William Pauley III, attorney Kenneth Kaplan, who is representing Stevenson's co-defendant, Igor Tsimerman, said he and other defense lawyers will be making a host of pretrial motions aimed at attacking the underlying indictment in the case.

But in a move that one legal expert said was unusual, Kaplan told Pauley that the conduct of cooperating witness Sigfredo Gonzalez will be made an issue in an effort to keep him off the witness stand in the trial, currently scheduled for next year. Prosecutors didn't address the issue in court.

Kaplan didn't elaborate in court about the alleged misconduct of Gonzalez, a political figure in the Bronx, who reportedly made a number of secret recordings that prosecutors used to investigate Stevenson and the other defendants. Outside court, Kaplan would only say that Gonzalez's conduct occurred while he was working as a government operative.

At a different pretrial hearing in White Plains federal court on the corruption case involving state Sen. Malcolm Smith, city Councilman Dan Halloran of Queens and others, defense attorneys also gave notice that they intend to attack the legal viability of the indictment. At a hearing before Judge Kenneth M. Karas, the attorneys said they plan to file motions seeking dismissal of various counts in the indictment.

In April, Smith, a Democrat, was accused of scheming to bribe his way onto New York City's Republican mayoral ballot with the help of Halloran and others.

Vinoo Varghese, an attorney for Halloran, a Republican, said "almost half the charges against him would go away" if the legal challenges are successful.

With AP

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