Bribery, fraud charges dismissed against ex-NY Lt. Governor

Dec 4, 2022, 6:07 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2022, 2:58 pm
FILE - Former New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin leaves a hearing in federal court on Apri...

FILE - Former New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin leaves a hearing in federal court on April 18, 2022, in New York. A judge has thrown out bribery and fraud charges against Benjamin, leaving him facing only records falsification charges, Federal Judge J. Paul Oetken ruled Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. He says prosecutors failed to allege an explicit example in which Benjamin provided a favor for a bribe. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)

(AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Bribery and fraud charges against former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin were tossed out Monday by a federal judge, leaving Benjamin to face only records falsification charges. Prosecutors notified the judge hours later that they were appealing the ruling.

Six weeks before a scheduled trial, Judge J. Paul Oetken in a written opinion said prosecutors failed to allege an explicit example in which Benjamin provided a favor for a bribe, an essential element of bribery and honest services fraud charges.

Benjamin, a Democrat, resigned after his arrest last April. He pleaded not guilty to charges that he obtained campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for his influence to get a $50,000 grant of state funds for a nonprofit organization the developer controlled.

Benjamin’s arrest had created a political crisis for Gov. Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat who chose him to serve as second-in-command when she became governor following a sexual harassment scandal that drove from office her predecessor, Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Hours after the decision was released, Manhattan federal prosecutors notified Oetken that they were appealing his ruling to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. The judge had cited U.S. Supreme Court and 2nd Circuit decisions in reaching his conclusion.

At the time of his arrest, Benjamin’s lawyers had issued a statement saying they planned to show the courts that their client’s actions were laudable rather than a crime.

On Monday, attorneys Barry Berke and Dani James said in a statement that the ruling “shows how these wrongful charges so harmed Mr. Benjamin and unfairly cost him his position as Lt. Governor.”

“While today is a great day for justice, democracy and the rule of law, it is tragic that this case was ever brought and such a decision was necessary,” they said.

“From the very beginning, we said we are shocked and dismayed that the prosecution would bring such flimsy and unwarranted charges based on nothing more than routine fundraising and support of a non-profit providing needed resources to Harlem public schools,” the attorneys said.

They wrote that Benjamin was “thankful for his vindication and looks forward to new opportunities to serve the people of New York and his Harlem community.”

Benjamin was the state’s second Black lieutenant governor. During a state Legislature career that began in May 2017, he emphasized criminal justice reform and affordable housing. His district included most of central Harlem, where he was born and raised by Caribbean immigrant parents.

In tossing out the first three charges in a five-count indictment, the judge wrote that appeals courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have made clear that proof of a promise was necessary to support criminal charges when payments are made in the form of campaign contributions.

The judge said he also agreed with a separate defense argument that the facts alleged in the indictment, even if true, fail to establish criminal liability. He noted that the government’s timeline of events show that there was no agreement between the Benjamin and the developer at the time Benjamin procured the $50,000 in state funding.

The charges that were left intact allege that Benjamin knowingly made a false entry in a record with the intent to impede an investigation. Each of them carry a potential maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Volunteers distribute aid to people in Antakya, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. Thinly st...
Associated Press

Live Updates | Turkey, Syria quake is deadliest in decade

The catastrophic earthquake that razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria became one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade Wednesday and the death toll kept rising, surpassing 11,000. Rescue crews braved freezing overnight temperatures in quake-hit areas in both countries in hopes of reaching more survivors and to pull more […]
1 day ago
A U.S. Air Force installation surrounded by farmland in central Montana is seen on Feb. 7, 2023, ne...
Associated Press

US, states weigh farmland restrictions after Chinese balloon

HARLOWTON, Mont. (AP) — Near the banks of Montana’s Musselshell River, cattle rancher Michael Miller saw a large, white orb above the town of Harlowton last week, a day before U.S. officials revealed they were tracking a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the state. The balloon caused a stir in the 900-person town surrounded by […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Russia seeks lengthy prison term for ex-governor

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities on Wednesday requested a lengthy prison term for a former regional governor who is standing trial on murder charges and whose arrest two years ago prompted weeks-long mass protests. The prosecutor has asked a court in the Moscow region to sentence Sergei Furgal, former governor of Russia’s far eastern Khabarovsk […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

How fresh tax credits, rebates can launch eco home updates

If you’ve been holding off on home improvements, a new law signed last year and now in effect as of Jan. 1, 2023, may provide a fresh incentive. The Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, includes tax credits and rebates for homeowners who make energy-saving updates to their homes. Credits for improvements like new solar panels, […]
1 day ago
This undated photo provided by Edmunds shows their top rated car, SUV, truck and an electric versio...
Associated Press

Edmunds: Car shopping trends and tips for 2023

Shopping for a new or used car over the last few years has become a frustrating and expensive undertaking. Car shoppers have had to deal with vehicle shortages, high prices, dwindling incentives and rising interest rates. Will 2023 bring any relief? Yes and no. “Many buyers exited the market due to inventory issues or pricing […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Farmers drive tractors to Paris to protest pesticide ban

PARIS (AP) — Hundreds of farmers drove their tractors through Paris on Wednesday to amplify their demand to be allowed to use banned pesticides on sugar beets and other crops to ensure “food sovereignty” for France. Entering the French capital through a southern gateway, the farmers’ convoy rolled to the gold-domed Invalides monument, site of […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Bribery, fraud charges dismissed against ex-NY Lt. Governor