Lawyer: GOP boss was too drunk to commit a crime when he took cash for Sen. Malcolm Smith
The lawyer for a county Republican leader charged in the Sen. Malcolm Smith bribery trial told jurors Thursday his client was too drunk to commit a crime when an informant and an undercover FBI agent got him to accept a $25,000 wad of cash.
Former Queens GOP leader Vincent Tabone downed "six or seven" vodka tonics without eating during a meeting with the two government operatives at Sparks Steak House in Manhattan, and then was taken out to a bugged van where he was given the money to help Smith run for mayor of New York City, lawyer Leo Ahearn said.
"My guy can barely talk," argued Ahearn, who contends his client thought he was being hired as a lawyer or political consultant. "He looks . . . somewhat tipsy."
Former State Senate Majority Leader Smith and former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran are charged in White Plains federal court with trying to bribe Tabone and other Republican county leaders to win permission for Smith, a Democrat, to run on the GOP line in the 2013 mayoral primary.
Smith, of Queens, who is charged with promising to funnel state funds to the informant and agent if they would come up with money for bribes, says he was entrapped and never agreed to an illegal scheme.
Tabone and Halloran, who is accused of being an intermediary, both say they thought they were being paid for legal and political services. Tabone's drunkenness claim follows pretrial filings by Halloran saying he might have been insane.
Ahearn's remarks followed opening statements by prosecutors and other defense lawyers Wednesday. Outside of court his co-counsel, Deborah Misir, said agents had wrongly used booze as a tool to get Tabone to fall into a trap.
"We think it's wrong for the government to intoxicate citizens to the point where . . . they can be made to look like they're breaking the law," she said.
In testimony Thursday, prosecutors called Staten Island Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino to give background on Smith, his brief six-month tenure as majority leader in 2009 before being ousted in a "coup," and the ways senators can pull strings to channel money to favored interests.
Savino said she discussed Smith's plan to run for mayor with him, and was never sold.
"Running as a Republican when you're a fairly prominent Democrat just seemed kind of goofy to me," she said.The undercover FBI agent who teamed up with informant Mark Stern, a Rockland County developer who was facing criminal charges, took the stand late Thursday. His testimony is schedule to continue Friday.