As jury selection began Monday in the new bribery trial for former state senator Malcolm Smith, his co-defendant was slapped with new charges — for allegedly tampering with a witness.
Prosecutors say former Queens Republican Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone on May 23 confronted Philip Ragusa, who then chaired the borough’s GOP party, at his home and tried to convince him not to testify when Tabone and Smith were on trial earlier this year for trying to fix the 2013 mayoral race.
That White Plains federal court proceeding resulted in a June mistrial following the feds’ late release of more than 92 hours of recordings – including 28 hours in Yiddish yet to be translated.
A superseding indictment in the $200,000 bribery case now alleges Tabone spoke to the “county chairman,” who is not mentioned by name, while the chairman was “failing in health” and “resting in bed” and “encouraged” him not to testify. Tabone also allegedly claimed “no court” could “force” Ragusa to testify. The death-bed conversation took place an hour before Ragusa was supposed to give a deposition to prosecutors.
Ragusa, who was never charged with wrongdoing, was expected to eventually testify at the trial in defense of another co-defendant, former Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), but died in June of leukemia.
I gotta laugh at this, because Tabone originally claimed that he would get the charges dismissed because he wasn't an elected official and therefore couldn't be charged with bribery and now he went ahead and screwed himself. Once you're charged with a federal crime, it's best not to talk to anyone because the wiretaps and nervous witnesses are more than likely gonna trip you up.