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Mistrial declared for Malcolm Smith

Malcolm A. Smith, courtesy of CBS News via YouTubeA judge declared a mistrial in the U.S. government’s bribery case against New York State Senator Malcolm A. Smith and another defendant Wednesday.

Judge Kenneth M. Karas of the U.S. District Court in White Plains delivered the decision after several jurors said they could not extend their service until mid-July. Defense lawyers said they needed until then to wade through the 9,000 or so recorded conversations in Yiddish and English that could be evidence in the case, the New York Times reported.

The case against one of the other two defendants, Queens Republican leader Vincent Tabone, was also declared a mistrial. The trial of the third defendant, Daniel J. Halloran III, a former New York City councilman, will continue next week.

Smith, a Democrat from Queens, is accused of conspiring to bribe Republican county leaders to aid his run for mayor in 2013 on the Republican party ticket.

His trial on bribery and wire-fraud charges began two weeks ago.

Smith’s meetings in 2012 with property developer Moses Stern were secretly recorded. The two allegedly discussed payoffs to Smith of $12,000 and $15,000.

Stern and Smith were planning to spread campaign contributions to Smith’s Republican Senate colleagues facing difficult primariesThose campaign donations were intended to garner their support for Smith becoming Senate majority leader — a launching pad for a future New York City mayoral run, prosecutors alleged.

“Remind the senators that this is coming from Malcolm,” was how a government witness who was actually an undercover agent described Smith’s plan to the court.

Last week, the government said it had failed to turn over more than 70 hours of recordings of wiretapped conversations on Stern’s telephones, with 28 hours in Yiddish.

Government prosecutors said that the conversations contained “no game changers” or “blockbusters.” But defense lawyers argued that they might contain exculpatory material that could bolster their argument that Smith and the other defendants were entrapped by federal agents.

The defense moved for a mistrial, arguing that listening to and analyzing the recordings was “a herculean task” that could take weeks to achieve and burden the jury, and the judge agreed.

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

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