By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former Democratic state senator in New York was sentenced on Wednesday to seven years in federal prison for a bribery scheme, in one of a series of public corruption cases brought by U.S. prosecutors against state lawmakers.
Malcolm Smith, 58, was found guilty in February of trying to pay off Republican officials to secure a spot on the 2013 New York City mayoral ballot.
Smith’s initial trial ended in a mistrial last year after defense lawyers complained they had not been notified of more than 70 hours of secret recordings made by a government informant, many in Yiddish.
His co-defendant, former Queens Republican leader Vincent Tabone, 48, was convicted in February and sentenced on Wednesday to 3-1/2 years in prison.
A third defendant, former Republican New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran, was convicted last year.
Earlier this year, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged the state’s two most powerful legislators, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, in separate corruption cases. Both men have left their posts.
Silver is accused of collecting millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks, while Skelos is charged with using his power to extort payments for his son, who was also indicted.
Bharara has used the two cases to criticize Albany’s “three men in a room” decision-making process, which concentrates political might among the assembly speaker, the senate majority leader and the governor.
Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down an anti-corruption commission he established in 2013, prompting Bharara to take over the commission’s files.
Dozens of New York politicians have faced legal or ethics charges since 2000, including former Senate Democratic leader John Sampson, who is on trial in Brooklyn in a case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office there.
Skelos’ deputy, Thomas Libous, is due to face trial in July for allegedly lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about a business deal involving his son.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)