NEW YORK — A top New York state lawmaker was arrested early Tuesday for what federal prosecutors said was his central role in a brazen series of bribery and corruption schemes, including an attempt to buy a spot on the ballot in this year's race for New York City mayor.
In outlining the charges against the lawmaker, state Sen. Malcolm A. Smith, as well as five other politicians and Republican Party leaders, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the case was but the latest evidence that corruption in New York was "pervasive."
"Every New Yorker should be disheartened and dismayed by the sad state of affairs in this great state," Bharara said.
Smith, D-Queens, who rose to become the first black president of the state Senate, was accused of conspiring with City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III, R-Queens, to get his name on the ballot for mayor as a Republican, which would require approval of a majority of the party's leadership in the city.
The others arrested were Joseph J. Savino, the Bronx Republican Party chairman; Vincent Tabone, vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party; and Noramie F. Jasmin, the mayor of the Rockland County village of Spring Valley, and her deputy, Joseph A. Desmaret, according to a criminal complaint.
The complaint details a scheme hatched in a series of clandestine meetings in hotels, with cash passing hands in parked cars and hushed conversations in a restaurant on Valentine's Day and even in Smith's office in Albany. The meetings, recorded by an undercover agent or a cooperating witness, were primarily among Smith, the undercover agent and the witness, and Halloran and the agent and the witness. The scheme involving the race was one of three bribery schemes charged in the case.
Bharara, at a news conference, pointed to Halloran's own words in a recorded conversation with the confidential witness as evidence of how "money greases the wheel."
"That's politics, that's politics," Halloran is quoted in the complaint as saying. "Not about whether or will, it's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that. And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else."
The charges immediately reverberated at City Hall and in Albany.
"It is very, very troubling," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said of the charges. "We have zero tolerance for any violation of the public integrity and the public trust, so they're very serious."