Listen to this article here
On Tuesday, while much of the national news covered Brooklyn’s subway shooting, New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin was being hand-cuffed in a federal corruption investigation.
Per ABC News, Benjamin, a Democrat, was accused in an indictment of participating in a scheme to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for Benjamin using his influence as a coveted state senator to get a $50,000 grant of state funds for a nonprofit organization the developer controlled.
Benjamin’s charges include bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsification of records.
Benjamin pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Manhattan federal court and was released on bail set at $250,000. The terms of his release restrict his travel and bar him from returning to the state capitol in Albany.
Last fall, N.Y. Governor, Kathy Hochul (D) chose Benjamin, then a state lawmaker, to serve as second-in-command when she became governor, taking over for Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who resigned amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
Two months after Benjamin became lieutenant governor, a real estate developer who directed campaign funds toward Benjamin’s failed bid for NYC comptroller was indicted. Federal authorities accused Gerald Migdol of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in illegally giving donations to Benjamin’s campaign.
Indictments for Benjamin stretch over two years.
The indictment said Benjamin, formerly a state senator from Harlem, and others acting at his direction or on his behalf engaged in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up the scheme that stretched from 2019 to 2021.
The indictment also includes that they falsified campaign donor forms, misled municipal regulators, and provided false information in vetting forms Benjamin submitted while he was being considered to be appointed as lieutenant governor.
Prosecutors had previously not made any accusations against Benjamin. His campaign said at the time of Migdol’s arrest that it had forfeited any improper donations as soon as they were discovered.
What is the political future of Brian Benjamin?
Before Benjamin’s arrest, Hochul had defended him even last week saying she had the “utmost confidence” in him. She also states she was unaware of his pending legal issues when she originally selected him.
State leaders from both major parties have called on Benjamin to resign, including at least 10 of Benjamin’s fellow Democrats in the Legislature by Tuesday afternoon. Yet no official statements have been made by Hochul regarding Benjamin’s political future.