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Former NY Sen. Malcolm Smith Gets 7 Years In 2013 NYC Mayoral Election Bribery Scheme

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Former Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith will spend seven years in prison for a scheme to bribe his way onto the ballot for the 2013 New York City mayoral election.

Smith, 52, was sentenced Wednesday in White Plains and was ordered to surrender to prison Sept. 21.

A stack of letters citing a spectrum of good deeds saved him from the maximum sentence of 10 years, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported. But still federal Judge Kenneth Karas said Smith's crime was worse than other forms of corruption because he corrupted the democratic process.

Former NY Sen. Malcolm Smith Gets 7 Years In 2013 NYC Mayoral Election Bribery Scheme

Smith chose not to address the court and had no visible reaction when he heard the sentence. But in a letter to the judge, he insisted his only motivation was to achieve his dream of becoming mayor.

"Was I 'greedy' for power?'' he wrote. "Is that why I wanted to be mayor? No. --- What excited me, what filled me with hopefulness -- and yes, pride -- was the opportunity I had to help others."

Co-defendant Vincent Tabone, the former Queens Republican vice chairman, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison at a separate proceeding Wednesday. Prosecutors had asked for up to eight years for Tabone.

The two were convicted in February of crimes that included bribery conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion. When they were arrested, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the case illustrated a "culture of corruption'' in New York politics.

"Smith abused his position of public trust and encouraged others to do so for his own personal benefit. Tabone violated the trust placed in him by his fellow party members in an effort to enrich himself through quid pro quo bribery, and then brazenly tried to prevent the leader of his own party from testifying against him,'' prosecutors said this week in asking for lengthy prison terms. They called the defendants' conduct "truly egregious.''

Their convictions came the same week that longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, stepped down from his leadership post in the face of federal charges that he accepted nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks.

In 2013, prosecutors said, Smith wanted to be mayor but also wanted to avoid a Democratic mayoral primary. So he instead decided to obtain the backing of Republican leaders in three boroughs, which would allow him to run for the GOP line, the indictment said. Prosecutors said he authorized bribes totaling about $200,000.

Jurors saw video recordings of transactions that prosecutors said were bribes, and they heard testimony from an FBI informant identified only as "Raj,'' who had posed as a wealthy real estate developer and was in on meetings involving Smith and Republican leaders.

The defense insisted Smith was an honest politician who was a victim of entrapment. On Wednesday, Smith's lawyer, Gerald Shargel, argued his client deserved a lighter sentence -- one year and one day -- partly because he had been lured into the scheme by a government cooperator whom the lawyer called a "scoundrel.''

In imposing the sentence, the judge reponded: "If Mr. Smith had said 'no' to the scoundrel --- we wouldn't be here.''

Afterward, Smith left without speaking to reporters. His lawyer said there would be an appeal.

"Obviously I'm disappointed. I think Malcolm Smith was entrapped,'' Shargel said.

Of four other politicians who were arrested with Smith and Tabone, two have been convicted and two have pleaded guilty.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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