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Attorney In NYC Corruption Trial Argues Vincent Tabone Didn't Know He Was Taking Bribes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The corruption trial against New York state Sen. Malcolm Smith, former City Councilman Dan Halloran and New York City Republican Party leader Vincent Tabone continued Thursday.

As WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported, Tabone's attorney gave the jury his take on the bribe payment scene that allegedly unfolded on Valentine's Day last year.

Attorney In NYC Corruption Trial Argues Vincent Tabone Didn't Know He Was Taking Bribes

It was outside the infamous Sparks Restaurant, said the attorney. He referred to it as the Valentine's Day massacre, Cornell reported.

The last actual massacre at Sparks was the mob hit on Paul Castellano that made John Gotti boss of the Gambinos.

In this case, defendants Smith, Halloran and Tabone ate and drank with an FBI undercover agent and then went outside to get paid.

Attorney Leo Ahearn argued that when Tabone took $25,000 in cash, he didn't think of it as a bribe to help Smith become mayor of New York City, but as a legal retainer. Ahearn also said Tabone was drunk at the time.

State Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, later testified that Smith had been talking up his plan to run for mayor on the GOP line for some time. She told the jury she found it rather amusing, but he was serious.

"Running as a Republican when you're a prominent Democrat seemed kind of goofy to me," Savino said.

The jury also listened to testimony from "Raj," the FBI undercover agent who posed as a real estate developer from out of state eager to buy some strong political clout.

The government charges that Raj and Smith were a perfect match. Smith told Raj he needed cash to bribe the Republican county leaders to put him on the GOP line, and Raj obliged, handing out envelopes full of cash provided by the FBI, the agent testified.

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