Ex-NY senator: Delay my prison term for seminar _ on prison

AP News
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Posted: Oct 31, 2015 3:47 PM
Ex-NY senator: Delay my prison term for seminar _ on prison

NEW YORK (AP) — A former New York state senator will have to learn about prison life once he gets there for a bribery conviction.

A federal judge in suburban White Plains has rejected Malcolm Smith's request to delay his seven-year sentence so he could attend a seminar on living behind bars.

The Democrat made the request Friday, a week before he was due to start his sentence. He was convicted of trying to pay off local Republican leaders to get a shot at the GOP ballot line in the 2013 New York City mayoral race.

Smith sought to push back his surrender date so he could hear judges, an ex-inmate and experts discuss prison conditions and correctional issues at a Nov. 17 program sponsored by an attorney's group.

"We believe the program will help prepare Mr. Smith for the prison experience, letting him know what to expect and facilitating a smooth institutional adjustment," defense lawyer Marc Fernich wrote in a letter to the court.

Fernich also said Smith wanted to spend Thanksgiving with his family and suggesting a Nov. 30 surrender.

Prosecutors objected, noting that Smith had already gotten the date postponed from September to accommodate a medical appointment.

"The defendant has had four months to prepare to serve his sentence," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica Feinstein and Perry Carbone wrote.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas agreed the prison program didn't warrant delaying Smith's incarceration. But the judge noted that more time may be needed to resolve a separate request, filed Wednesday, for Smith to remain free on bail while he appeals. Prosecutors oppose it.

Prosecutors and Fernich declined to comment Saturday.

Smith had been in the state Senate for more than a decade when he, two high-ranking New York City Republican Party officials, a city councilman and the mayor and deputy mayor of suburban Spring Valley were arrested in April 2013.

The case centered on a startling allegation that Smith, who was among Democratic leaders in the Senate, had tried to scheme his way into the Republican mayoral ballot line to avoid a crowded Democratic primary.

Prosecutors said Smith authorized bribes totaling about $200,000 to secure Republican leaders' backing to run for the GOP line. State law allows a person registered with one party to get a waiver to seek another party's ballot line, and Smith's lawyers said he was an honest politician who was entrapped by a government cooperator.

Smith was convicted in February of conspiracy, bribery and other charges.

The case is one in a series of scandals that have rocked New York's capital. More than two dozen New York state lawmakers have stepped down because of criminal or ethical issues during the past 15 years.

Some others remain in office while fighting corruption charges, including former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican. Both are scheduled to go on trial in November.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.