Oy Gevalt! Untranslated Yiddish Recordings Stall State Senator’s TrialState Senator Malcolm A. Smith, a Democrat, is charged with plotting to bribe Republican officials. Credit Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times
WHITE PLAINS — In an odd twist in a courtroom saga dense with allegations of political corruption, the fate of State Senator Malcolm A. Smith and two other defendants may be put on hold because, of all things, Yiddish.
The United States attorney’s office failed until the trial was well underway to turn over to defense lawyers recordings of 9,000 conversations, almost 300 in Yiddish, in phone calls made or received by Moses Stern, a Rockland County developer who became a government informer to try to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. On Thursday morning, before the jury was called in, defense lawyers, including Gerald L. Shargel, Mr. Smith’s lawyer, complained for an hour. (A Yiddish speaker might say they kvetched.)
State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, who is facing a sentence of up to 25 years in prison on wire fraud and bribery charges, entered the federal courthouse in White Plains, N.Y., on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors argued that the conversations were irrelevant and “remote” from the crimes of bribery and wire fraud that the defendants are charged with. But the defense lawyers seemed to convince Judge Kenneth M. Karas of Federal District Court that the recordings might contain exculpatory chatter to bolster the defendants’ claims that they were entrapped by Mr. Stern and an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.Since it could take weeks to translate the material — none of the lawyers or defendants speak Yiddish much beyond such Americanisms as mensch and chutzpah, and there are few court-certified Yiddish translators — the judge said he might have to consider adjourning the case or declaring a mistrial and impaneling a new jury.
Вот уж действительно: if you have nothing nice to say - say it in yiddish! возможно даже избежишь тюрьмы!source