News Americas, WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Thurs. July 2, 2015: A Caribbean-American New York lawmaker will have to spend the next seven years of his life in prison for a scheme to bribe his way onto the ballot of the 2013 New York City mayoral election.
Former Democratic New York State Sen., Jamaican-American Malcolm Smith, was sentenced Wednesday in White Plains, NY by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas.
Smith 58, of Queens, NY was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on September 21, 2015.
“Smith abused his position of public trust and encouraged others to do so for his own personal benefit,” prosecutors said this week in asking for lengthy prison terms. They called the defendant’s conduct “truly egregious.”
“Bribes and kickbacks should never play a role in the selection of candidates for public office,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Wednesday.
By attempting to buy a spot on New York City’s Mayoral ballot, Malcolm Smith corrupted one of the most fundamental tenets of the democratic process, that candidates cannot bribe their way onto a ballot,” he added.
“Today’s sentences make clear that the cost of violating the public trust in this way will be measured in years in a federal prison,” Bharara said.
Smith’s lawyer said he would appeal. “Obviously I’m disappointed. I think Malcolm Smith was entrapped,” lawyer Gerald Shargel said after the sentencing.
A federal jury found Smith guilty of bribery conspiracy, wire fraud, use of interstate facilities to commit bribery and extortion in February after a three-and-a-half week jury trial.
Smith wanted to be mayor but sought to avoid a Democratic mayoral primary. He instead decided to obtain the backing of Republican leaders in three boroughs so he could run for the GOP line. Prosecutors said he authorized bribes totaling about $200,000.
The five other politicians who were arrested with Smith were convicted or pleaded guilty.
Smith was the Democratic member of the New York State Senate for the 14th district, a portion of southeast Queens that includes Caribbean immigrant populated areas of Hollis, St. Albans, Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens and parts of Jamaica. He was first elected to the New York State Senate in November 2000 and became chairman of the Independent Democratic Conference of the State Senate and, among other positions, served as the State Senate’s minority leader, majority leader, and acting lieutenant governor.
He was also Temporary President of the New York State Senate from 2009 to 2010, the first black to hold that position.
On April 2, 2013, Smith was arrested by the FBI on federal corruption charges. In September 2014 primary voters in Queens rejected Smith; largely due to his indictment on corruption charges of bribery and extortion.. His opponent Leroy Comrie, a former Jamaican-born city councilman, won in a landslide.
Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, who was also convicted as part of a scheme to allow Smith to run was sentenced to 42 months in prison for receiving bribes and witness tampering.