NY’s lieutenant governor resigns after arrest in federal investigation

NY's lieutenant governor resigns after arrest in federal investigation

ALBANY, NY ( Associated Press) — New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin resigned Tuesday in the wake of his arrest in a federal corruption investigation that caused a political crisis for Gov. Kathy Hochul, seven months after he hired Benjamin as a partner. I chose. Fresh start in an office already rocked by scandal.

Benjamin, a Democrat, was accused of receiving a $50,000 grant of state funds for a non-profit organization in exchange for Benjamin’s agreement to use his influence as a state senator. The estate was indicted for participating in a scheme to receive campaign contributions from the developer. Developer controlled.

Facing charges including bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsification of records, Benjamin pleaded not guilty in a preliminary appearance in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. He was released and bail was set at $250,000. The terms of his release restrict his travels and prevent him from returning to the State Capitol in Albany.

Hours later he submitted his resignation to Hochul.

“I have accepted the resignation of Brian Benjamin with immediate effect,” he said. While the legal process is underway, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as the Lieutenant Governor. The people of New York deserve full confidence in their government, and I will continue to work for them every day,” Hochul said in a statement.

Two lawyers representing Benjamin said he was suspending his campaign to focus on defending his actions in court and said the grant in question was used to buy school supplies.

“There was nothing unfair about this grant. He would focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions were laudable – not criminal. He is waiting for when this case will end so that he can rededicate himself to public service.”

In September Hochul appointed Benjamin, then a state legislator, to serve as second-in-command when he became governor, taking over for Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who resigned amid allegations that he had He sexually assaulted 11 women, which he denied.

youtube video thumbnail

Hochul, also a Democrat, was Cuomo’s lieutenant governor. She is now trying to remain governor in this year’s election. Benjamin was his running mate.

Hochul’s office and campaign did not respond to messages Tuesday evening that his plan was moving for a new lieutenant governor and running mate.

Benjamin was the second black lieutenant governor of the state. During his state legislature career, he focused on criminal justice reform and affordable housing. His district included most of central Harlem, where he was born and raised by Caribbean immigrant parents.

New York law makes it difficult to remove Benjamin from the June primary ballot: He can disqualify himself from running for state office by moving out of New York, or the state Democratic Party can let him run for office down ballot. .

Democratic Party President Jay Jacobs said the party was exploring its options.

“I’m not ready at the moment to say what we’re considering, suffice it to say that we’ll be looking at options rapidly,” Jacobs said.

Two months after Benjamin became lieutenant governor, a real estate developer who had made campaign contributions towards Benjamin’s unsuccessful bid for Comptroller of New York City was indicted. Federal officials charged Gerald Migdoll with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and identity theft in illegally donating to Benjamin’s campaign.

The indictment says Benjamin and others acting on his direction or on his behalf also engaged in a series of lies and deceit to cover up the plan that spanned from 2019 to 2021.

The indictment says he falsified campaign donor forms, misled municipal regulators and provided false information in vetting forms submitted by Benjamin while he was being appointed as lieutenant governor.

Prosecutors had previously filed no charges against Benjamin, and their campaign said at the time of Migdol’s arrest that they had confiscated any unreasonable donations as soon as they were discovered.

Recently, reports emerged that Benjamin had been issued summons regarding financial issues, even before Hochul had elected him as lieutenant governor.

Before Benjamin’s arrest and resignation, Hochul had defended him, saying last week he had “extreme faith” in him. She said last week that she didn’t know about the summons when she chose Benjamin as her number 2.

Top Republicans and at least a dozen of Benjamin’s fellow Democrats in the Legislature called on him to resign by Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-cousin, a Democrat, is taking on the duties of lieutenant governor – a role he took on before Benjamin’s appointment last year when Hochul became governor.

Two candidates for governor, Democratic US Rep. Thomas Suozzi and Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin slammed Hochul’s decision to elect Benjamin in the first place, despite long-standing concerns about his potential campaign finance breaches.

Immigration advocate Ana Maria Archila, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor with New York City public advocate and gubernatorial candidate Jumane Williams, said Albany’s politicians have traded “on the money side” for too long.

“Today is a dark day, with Albany on the worst display for all New Yorkers to see,” Archila said.

The scandal is the latest in a long history of lawmakers and other Albany leaders being embroiled in allegations of wrongdoing.

Not only did Cuomo’s resignation as governor come amid allegations of sexual assault, but his administration’s misrepresentation of the number of New Yorkers dying in nursing homes from COVID-19.

In 2008, the then Govt. Elliot Spitzer resigns amid prostitution investigation.

Former Speaker of the New York Assembly Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful figures in the state government, resigned in 2015 after being arrested on federal corruption charges.

Former Republican State Senate Majority Leader Dean Scales, who for a time shared power with Silver, was convicted of extortion, wire fraud and bribery.


Hayes reported from New York. Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela, Michelle L. Price and Larry Neumeister contributed from New York and Michael Hill contributed from Albany.


Related Stories