|NY Suspects Asked for Hard Drives to Hold Evidence|
|By JIM FITZGERALD Associated Press||Apr 23, 2013, 2:19 AM|
The government's evidence in a political corruption case — audio and video recordings, text messages, emails and more — is so voluminous that each of the six defendants is being asked to provide a 150-gigabyte hard drive to hold it.
The hard drives will be used to share the evidence with defense lawyers, federal prosecutor Alvin Bragg said in court Tuesday.
He spoke during a scheduling conference after the defendants, including state Sen. Malcolm Smith, pleaded not guilty at their arraignment. They're accused of bribery schemes, including a plan to buy Smith the Republican line on New York City's mayoral ballot.
None of the defendants spoke at either court session; their pleas were entered through their lawyers. Judge Kenneth Karas gave the lawyers until July 19 to study the evidence and consider any motions they might want to make. He allowed the defendants to remain free on bail.
The complaint and indictment make clear that much of the evidence will come from recordings made by an undercover FBI agent and a cooperating witness.
Between 150 and 200 hours of video would fit on 150 gigabytes of storage space.
Smith is accused of scheming with New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran, a Republican, to bribe county Republican leaders for the GOP line on this year's mayoral ballot.
Because he is a Democrat, Smith would have needed three leaders' permission.
The indictment said two Republican Party leaders, Joseph Savino of the Bronx, and Vincent Tabone of Queens, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for their agreement.
Halloran is also accused of agreeing to steer City Council funds to a company in exchange for more bribes.
The indictment quotes him as saying, "That's politics; it's all about how much. Not about whether or will, it's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that."
In a separate bribery scheme, Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret are accused of taking money and property to approve a real estate project.
Each defendant could be sentenced to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors said more than $100,000 changed hands.
The bribery and extortion charges produced hand-wringing in the city and in Albany, where Smith was removed from his most influential post. And they came amid a growing perception that corruption is a serious problem in New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced several anti-corruption proposals and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who announced the charges three weeks ago, said Monday that he has met with the FBI "to discuss expanding our corruption efforts."
"It seems that a culture of corruption has developed and grown, just like barnacles on a boat bottom," Bharara said. "And just as with barnacles on a boat bottom, when a growth is permitted to spread and grow unchecked, it unsurprisingly takes an unrelenting, collective effort to clean up."
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that 48 percent of New Yorkers see corruption as "very serious," the highest share since the poll began asking the question in 2003. And a Siena College poll released Monday showed 81 percent of New York voters expect more corruption arrests.
Neither the undercover agent nor the witness is identified by name in the indictment, but the witness has been widely reported to be Moses Stern, a Rockland County real estate developer. Prosecutors acknowledge that the witness pleaded guilty to unspecified federal charges last month, hoping to win leniency at sentencing.
Desmaret's attorney, Kenneth Gribetz, said Monday he is eager to see the details of that plea bargain.
Associated Press writer Michael Gormley in Albany contributed to this report.