The corruption trial of former state Sen. Malcolm Smith began Tuesday with his attorney arguing the disgraced pol’s mayoral ambitions were pure.
“He was a man ready and willing to do good, not ready and willing to commit a crime. . . . Cash envelopes over drunken steak dinners were the opposite of what he wanted,” lawyer Evan Lipton said in White Plains Federal Court.
Prosecutors charge that Smith engineered a $200,000 scheme to bribe his way onto the 2013 Republican ballot for mayor. Smith’s co-defendant, former Queens GOP Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, allegedly helped him distribute the cash to the powerbrokers whose support he required.
Authorities say that Tabone accepted $20,000 at a boozy dinner at Sparks Steak House in Midtown on Smith’s behalf from an undercover agent he believed to be a developer looking to curry favor.
“That’s what this case is about. . . . A man who wanted to be mayor and the men who were willing to be bought,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone said.
Smith and Tabone say they were entrapped by the feds.
This is the government’s second attempt at trying the two. The first one ended in a mistrial after Federal Judge Kenneth Karas ruled prosecutors did not promptly turn over wiretapped conversations to the defense.
Smith, once a prominent Queens Democrat, faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted. Tabone, who faces a new witness-tampering charge, could serve up to 30 years.
This article originally appeared in The New York Daily News