- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) - Three New York politicians are seeking a halt to their federal corruption trial because more than 90 hours of secret recordings - including 28 hours in Yiddish - were withheld by prosecutors until this week.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith asked the judge for a mistrial, and his co-defendants moved for a complete dismissal of the charges.

Their lawyers said the recordings include material favorable to their clients and should have been available before the trial began June 4. No details of the recordings emerged in open court.

Smith, former City Councilman Daniel Halloran and former Queens Republican leader Vincent Tabone are accused of scheming to bribe Republican party leaders so Smith, a Democrat, could run for the GOP line in last year’s New York City mayoral race.

At the trial, the principal witness has been an undercover FBI agent presenting recordings that purport to reveal him and Smith discussing payments and thousands of dollars in cash changing hands.

The defendants deny any involvement in a scheme. Smith also says he was entrapped.

Smith’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel, said Friday that without extra time to go over the recordings, he would be “constitutionally uncomfortable” with continuing the trial.

Judge Kenneth Karas seemed to acknowledge that the defense lawyers would need more than the weekend to catch up.

“Even if it were all in English, it would take a substantial amount of time … to comprehend what is in there,” the judge said. “It’s not like sitting around listening to Beethoven.”

And he said the extra time would make it difficult to keep the jury that has been hearing the case. Jurors were told the trial would end by June 20, and Karas said a delay could men it goes into the week of July 7.

The judge invited the lawyers to write briefs and said he would issue decisions on Monday.

Over the weekend, prosecutors said, up to a dozen translators will be transcribing the Yiddish recordings into English. Defense attorneys complained that the Yiddish recordings came with brief summaries but not full translations. The recordings are of conversations involving Moses Stern, an Orthodox Jew and a government informant in the case.

Prosecutors said they had not turned the recordings over because they did not consider them relevant to the case. The judge seemed convinced that there was no bad faith.

“There is no evidence that they were trying to hide this from you,” he told Halloran’s attorney, Vinoo Varghese.

Varghese, however, alleged “prosecutorial misconduct” and moved for a dismissal. Tabone’s attorney joined in that motion.

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