By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, the state’s No. 2 official after Governor Kathy Hochul, resigned on Tuesday after being billed with bribery and fraud for allegedly directing state cash toward a true estate developer in trade for campaign contributions.
Hochul, who handpicked Benjamin for the lieutenant governor’s task previous August, introduced the resignation a number of hours soon after the 45-yr-aged Benjamin pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court to costs in a 5-depend indictment.
“While the authorized procedure performs out, it is very clear to both equally of us that he can not proceed to provide as lieutenant governor,” Hochul mentioned in a assertion. “New Yorkers are worthy of complete confidence in their federal government, and I will go on performing each individual working day to supply for them.”
Benjamin’s resignation is productive right away, Hochul explained. Lawyers for Benjamin did not straight away answer to requests for comment.
Prosecutors said Benjamin in 2019 directed a $50,000 state grant to a non-revenue controlled by the developer from the Harlem part of Manhattan, which Benjamin represented at the time as a condition senator.
The developer then despatched Benjamin’s reelection marketing campaign thousands of dollars as a result of various checks in the names of relatives and a confined liability company, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors claimed the developer also elevated dollars for Benjamin’s unsuccessful 2021 run to turn into New York City’s comptroller.
“Taxpayer dollars for marketing campaign contributions. Quid pro quo. This for that. That’s corruption,” mentioned Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan. “Public corruption continues to be a dilemma in New York. It is a bipartisan issue. It is an ongoing trouble.”
The Harlem real estate developer was not identified by title in the indictment.
Just in excess of two months following Benjamin turned lieutenant governor, serious estate developer Gerald Migdol was criminally charged with steering illegal campaign contributions to an unnamed applicant for metropolis comptroller. Migdol pleaded not responsible.
Benjamin faces rates which include bribery, wire fraud and falsification of information. His circumstance and Migdol’s are in the identical case file.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona Wang released Benjamin on $250,000 bond, and imposed vacation limitations that still left him not able to vacation to Albany, New York’s state funds, without permission from authorities.
Benjamin is next because of to surface in court docket on April 19.
The charges could complicate Hochul’s reelection bid in November.
Hochul, a Democrat who experienced been lieutenant governor, changed Andrew Cuomo as governor previous August, when he resigned adhering to an inquiry that located that he experienced sexually harassed 11 females.
She faces worries from New York Town Comptroller Jumaane Williams and Extended Island U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi for Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York Modifying by Will Dunham and Bill Berkrot)