Former New York City Councilman Dan Halloran was convicted Tuesday of taking bribes from two FBI operatives in return for steering city grants and helping Queens Sen. Malcolm Smith dole out payoffs to win a spot in the 2013 Republican mayoral primary.
Halloran's quick conviction -- 85 minutes of deliberations following a two-month trial -- could spell trouble for one-time Democratic Senate majority leader Smith and ex-Queens GOP leader Vincent Tabone, alleged co-conspirators whose trial is set for January.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara lauded the conviction in federal court in White Plains as the latest success for his office's anti-corruption efforts, which have focused recently on a probe of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's disbanding of a state ethics commission.
"The cleanup of corruption in New York continues," Bharara said. "Dan Halloran was the lone defendant in the trial . . . but he is unfortunately not alone in a crowded field of New York officials who are willing to sell out their offices for self-enrichment."
Halloran, 42, a Queens Republican, was portrayed as a poster boy for cynical, on-the-take politicians for telling an undercover FBI agent and an informant who were posing as corrupt real estate developers that money was what "greases the wheels" in New York politics.
"It's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that, all like that," he said.
He was charged with taking $15,000 in payments from the FBI operatives after agreeing to funnel them money from a nonprofit he would fund with city money, and then becoming "quarterback" of a scheme to get Smith permission to run on the GOP ballot.
Prosecutors said he agreed to take $20,000 to arrange for $80,000 in payoffs to Republican county leaders to get their consent. Tabone is accused of taking $25,000 in cash, and former Bronx GOP leader Joseph Savino pleaded guilty to taking $15,000.
Halloran testified that he never actually intended to follow through on the plan to channel city money to the FBI operatives, and that he viewed the money in the Smith scheme as a political consulting fee to set up legitimate legal retainers with Republican leaders.
Defense lawyer Vinoo Varghese said he thought that after hearing the tapes, jurors "didn't really care" what Halloran had to say.
"We're obviously very disappointed," he said. "While we accept the decision, the jury got it wrong."
Halloran faces up to 55 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas placed him on electronic monitoring and home confinement until sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 12.