New York Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned on April 12 after his arrest in a federal corruption investigation, said Gov. Katie Hochul, creating a political crisis for her seven months after choosing Benjamin as a partner to start a new one in a scandal-ridden office. .
Benjamin, a Democrat, has been charged with participating in a campaign to receive contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for Benjamin’s agreement to use his influence as a state senator to receive $ 50,000 in state funding. Non-profit. controlled by the developer.
Faced with charges including bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsification of records, Benjamin pleaded not guilty Tuesday to his first appearance in federal court in Manhattan. He was released on $ 250,000 bail. The conditions of his release require that his travel be restricted and that he be barred from returning to the state capital of Albany.
He resigned at Hochul hours later.
“I have accepted the resignation of Brian Benjamin, which will take effect immediately. While the legal process is going on, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as vice-governor. “The people of New York deserve absolute trust in their government, and I will continue to work every day to help them,” Hochul said in a statement.
Two lawyers representing Benjamin did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
In September, Hachul elected Benjamin, then a U.S. lawmaker, to serve as second commander when she became governor, replacing Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo resigned amid allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women he denied.
Hochul, also a Democrat, was Cuomo’s vice-governor. She is now running for governor in this year’s election, with Benjamin running.
Hochul did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday when asked who she would choose as her new vice governor. New York Senate leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, intervened to serve as lieutenant governor until Benjamin’s appointment.
Two months after Benjamin became vice-governor, a construction contractor was accused of directing campaign contributions to Benjamin’s failed bid for a controller in New York. Federal authorities have accused Gerald Migdol of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft by illegally making donations to Benjamin’s campaign.
The indictment alleges that Benjamin, a former Harlem senator, and others acting on his behalf or on his behalf, also participated in a series of lies and fraud to cover up the scheme, which runs from 2019 to 2021.
They falsified campaign donor forms, misled municipal regulators and provided false information in verification forms submitted by Benjamin while he was considered appointed vice-governor, the indictment said.
Prosecutors have not previously charged Benjamin, and his campaign said during Migdol’s arrest that it lost all illegal donations as soon as they were discovered.
Reports have recently emerged that Benjamin has been summoned for financial matters, even before Hochul elected him vice governor.
Prior to Benjamin’s arrest and resignation, Hochul defended him, saying last week that he had “the greatest confidence” in him. On Monday, she said she did not know about the subpoenas when she chose Benjamin to be her number two.
Lawmakers from the two major parties have called for Benjamin to resign, including at least a dozen of Benjamin’s fellow Democrats in the legislature by Tuesday afternoon.
Even when he resigns, Benjamin will still appear on the ballot for the 2022 primary election as Governor of the Democratic Party.
He will likely be on the ballot, even if Hochul elects a new vice governor and candidate, according to state election law.
New York law makes it difficult to remove Benjamin from the ballot: he may be removed from New York to be disqualified from running for office, or the US Democratic Party may allow him to run for lower office. State Democratic Party President Jay Jacobs did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
Benjamin was the second black vice governor of the state. During his career in the state legislature, he emphasized the reform of criminal justice and affordable housing. His area included most of central Haarlem, where he was born and raised by Caribbean immigrant parents.
The scandal is the latest in a long history of lawmakers and other Albany leaders who have been engulfed in allegations of wrongdoing.
Cuomo’s resignation as governor came not only amid allegations of sexual harassment, but also because his administration misrepresented the number of New Yorkers who died in nursing homes from COVID-19.
In 2008, the then governor. Elliott Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution investigation.
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most influential figures in the state government, resigned in 2015 after being arrested on federal corruption charges.
Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who has shared power with Silver for some time, has been convicted of extortion, wiretapping and bribery.
Hayes reported from New York. Associated Press writers Deepti Hajala, Michelle L. Price and Larry Neumeister contributed from New York and Michael Hill from Albany.
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