Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret is negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors that would require him to be a cooperating witness for the government in two public corruption probes in Rockland County, Newsday has learned.
Desmaret, 55, was indicted April 18 along with five other political figures, including Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, in a complex bribery scheme involving a proposed community center in Spring Valley as well as the New York City mayoral race.
Desmaret and his lawyer Kenneth Gribetz met for several hours Tuesday afternoon with federal prosecutors and FBI agents at the U.S. attorney's office in White Plains to discuss the terms of a possible plea deal, multiple sources familiar with the case told Newsday.
Desmaret is accused of taking $10,500 in bribes from government informant Moses Stern, a Spring Valley developer, to steer a community center contract to an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer. Jasmin is accused of seeking a secret 50 percent partnership in the contract in exchange for her support of the undercover agent and Stern as the project's developers. Desmaret and Jasmin each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges of racketeering and wire fraud.
"Desmaret has no choice, really. He has to plead guilty. The video and audio they have against him is damning," said one source familiar with the case. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the Rockland County corruption probes are ongoing.
Jasmin's lawyer, Benjamin Ostrer, declined to comment.
Gribetz declined to comment on plea negotiations and would not say whether he and Desmaret have met with federal prosecutors.
"He's pleaded not guilty," Gribetz said. "His intention as of right now is to proceed to trial."
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment on the case.
Desmaret was arrested April 2 along with Jasmin, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens), New York City Council member Daniel Halloran (R-Queens), Bronx GOP head Joseph "Jay" Savino and Queens GOP vice chairman Vincent Tabone in a complex bribery scheme that centered around Stern, who had pleaded guilty in March to federal charges. It's unclear what those charges are because his case remains sealed.
Smith is accused of scheming with Halloran to bribe Stern to pay off Savino and Tabone in an effort to secure a spot on the Republican line for Smith in this year's mayoral race.
The probe is one of two public corruption investigations federal prosecutors and the FBI are conducting in Rockland County.
Last month, 40 FBI agents descended upon Ramapo Town Hall, seizing boxes of documents and computers as part of a probe into the refinancing of Provident Bank Park, a baseball stadium that Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence had built through a special limited development corporation, called Ramapo LDC, after voters rejected the town-backed financing of the $38 million ballpark.
Desmaret, who in addition to being deputy mayor in Spring Valley works as a clerk in the assessor's office at Ramapo Town Hall, has been suspended without pay from his $55,000-a-year job. He's still getting a paycheck from Spring Valley for his $25,700-a-year post.