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Lack of Yiddish Translators Derails Bribery Case

Judge declares mistrial in corruption case against New York State Senator

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United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announces federal corruption charges against New York State Senator Malcolm Smith and New York City Council member Daniel Halloran at a press conference April 2, 2013 in New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

In a surprising development, a federal judge has declared a mistrial in the ongoing corruption case against New York State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, the New York Times reports. Smith, a Queens Democrat, faced charges of bribing local Republican leaders to support a 2013 run for mayor as a Republican.

The judge approved the defense’s motion for a mistrial in both cases after several jurors on the case were unable to continue to serve on the jury through the middle of next month—the amount of time required for the translation of 300 wiretapped phone conversations (28 hours!) in Yiddish, which the government recently released and which Smith’s lawyers argued were pivotal to their client’s defense. Government prosecutors, meanwhile, called the tapes “completely innocent.”

The New York Times reports:

The trial had been held up by the difficulty of translating Yiddish conversations recorded by a Rockland County businessman, Moses Stern, who has pleaded guilty to undisclosed charges in a $126 million fraud investigation. While the government said it has found 27 Yiddish translators, Mr. Smith’s lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, cautioned that volunteers have appeared without proper vetting and some of what the government has turned over has been “gibberish.”

“There are a lot of odd people, Yiddish-speaking oddballs or alleged Yiddish-speaking oddballs,” he said of the translators who have called his office volunteering to work on transcribing.

Previous: Michelle Obama Celebrates Yiddish Literature
De Blasio Brings His Message to Crown Heights in Yiddish
Related: Where Did Yiddish Come From?

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Lack of Yiddish Translators Derails Bribery Case

Judge declares mistrial in corruption case against New York State Senator

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