- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - A former New York state senator was properly convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison, an appeals court said Thursday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected the arguments of Malcolm Smith nearly two years after the Democrat was convicted of trying to pay off local Republican leaders so he could join the GOP ballot line in the 2013 New York City mayoral race. He was sentenced in July 2015 after his conviction on conspiracy, bribery and other charges. He is scheduled to be released in December 2021.

Smith, 60, was in the state Senate for over a decade before his 2013 arrest. Prosecutors said Smith authorized about $200,000 in bribes to secure Republican leaders’ backing to avoid a crowded Democratic primary and run on the GOP line.

The conviction of a former Queens Republican party vice chairman also was upheld.

On appeal, Smith argued that evidence was insufficient and that New York bribery laws and an honest services statute were unconstitutionally vague.

The appeals court rejected Smith’s effort to base his challenge to his conviction in part on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision reversing the public corruption conviction of former Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Smith argued that jury instructions, like in the McDonnell case, failed to define specifically for jurors the contours of an “official act” by a politician that would constitute a crime.

The appeals court reasoned that if there was an error in the judge’s instructions to jurors, it would not have affected the outcome of the trial.

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