By Chris Bragg, Crain’s New York Business
In court papers filed this week, Queens Councilman Daniel Halloran seeks to dismiss federal charges that he quarterbacked a stunning scheme that shook the New York City mayoral race.
Mr. Halloran is charged with offering bribes to several officials on behalf of Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith, who was allegedly courting the support of at least three of New York City’s five Republican county chairmen, which would have allowed him to run in this year’s Republican mayoral primary. Gaining such support to run in another party’s primary, or as its nominee, is known under state election law as gaining a Wilson-Pakula, named after the authors of the law that enables it.
In a highly technical argument made in the court papers, Mr. Halloran’s attorney, Vinoo Varghese, states that Mr. Halloran could not have committed a crime, because under New York state law, such an act would not be considered bribery in any case. “The bribery statutes also prohibit payment in exchange for an appointment to a public office,” Mr. Halloran’s attorney writes. “A Wilson-Pakula certificate, however, is not a promise that someone will be “appointed to a public office” within the meaning of Penal Law … Under New York statutory law, the terms ‘elect’ and ‘appoint’ are held out in contrast to one another.”
In other words, Mr. Halloran’s attorney is saying that even if the alleged actions indeed happened, they would not constitute bribery. The government, which unveiled extensive tape recordings of Mr. Smith, Mr. Halloran and others discussing the alleged plot, has not yet responded.
Besides Mr. Smith, the chairman of the Bronx Republican Party and the vice-chairman of the Queens Republican Party have also been implicated for allegedly accepting bribes. A trial is not expected to occur until 2014.