ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin resigned Tuesday evening after being charged in an alleged federal bribery conspiracy earlier in the day.
“I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as Lieutenant Governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”
News 4 obtained the indictment against Benjamin, which says that he used his abilities as a state senator to give $50,000 in state funds to a real estate developer in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. According to the indictment, this allegedly occurred between 2019 and 2021.
“In so doing, Benjamin abused his authority as a New York State senator, engaging in a bribery scheme using public funds for his own corrupt purposes,” the indictment says. In addition, Benjamin was accused of lying to cover it up.
(You can watch the full press conference from prosecutors below.)
Benjamin “engaged in a series of lies and deceptions to cover up his scheme, including by falsifying campaign donor forms, misleading municipal regulators, and providing false information in vetting forms Benjamin submitted while under consideration to be appointed the next Lieutenant Governor of New York State,” the indictment says.
MORE | Read the full indictment here.
Here are the charges he’s facing:
- honest services wire fraud
- bribery and honest services wire fraud conspiracy
- falsification of records (two counts)
Benjamin served as a New York State senator in northern Manhattan from June 2017 through September 2021. After Andrew Cuomo resigned as Governor following a number of sexual harassment allegations, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul took his place in August.
Her current term is set to end at the end of 2022, but Hochul has announced plans to run in this year’s election.
“There is no suggestion that Ms. Hochul was aware of Mr. Benjamin’s alleged criminal conduct,” The New York Times report said.
Benjamin’s lawyers James D. Gatta and William J. Harrington released a statement Tuesday evening that claimed innocence.
“There has never been a federal case like this in America. Brian supported a $50,000 grant to Friends of Public School Harlem. Every dollar was to buy supplies for public school students in Harlem. There was nothing inappropriate about this grant,” they said.
“After today’s charges, Brian will resign his duties as Lieutenant Governor and suspend his campaign. He will focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions were laudable—not criminal. He looks forward to when this case is finished so he can rededicate himself to public service.”
In a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday morning, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz agreed with Benjamin’s decision to resign.
“In our legal system, every person is presumed innocent until found guilty before a court of law. However, the charges alleged against the now former Lt. Gov. affected his ability to serve the people of NY. He could not fulfill his duties and it was correct for him to resign. Every time a situation like yesterday’s occurs you often hear the ‘all politicians are corrupt’ mantra. That just isn’t so. There are good people from all parties who serve for the sole reason to make their communities a better place for all. That’s how it always should be.”Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz
Lee Zeldin, a Republican Congressman from Long Island who is running for governor, criticized Hochul’s judgment in picking Benjamin as Lieutenant Governor.
“Kathy Hochul forced Brian Benjamin upon our state as Lieutenant Governor. He was such a bad pick. Running point on the defund the police movement in the legislature should have alone disqualified him. When this corruption surfaced, Hochul tripled down. She owns this…all of it! Terrible judgment!”Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY-1)