NEW YORK (HPD) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed bribery and fraud charges against a former New York state lieutenant governor, but retained charges of falsifying records.
The prosecution failed to prove a single specific incident where Brian Benjamin received a payment in exchange for a political favor, Judge J. Paul Oetken determined.
The Democratic official resigned after being arrested in April. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he obtained campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for his influence to obtain $50,000 for a nonprofit organization run by that developer.
Benjamin’s arrest created a political crisis for Gov. Kathy Hochul, a fellow Democrat who chose him as lieutenant governor when she took office after the resignation of her predecessor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned amid a sex scandal.
When he was arrested, Benjamin’s lawyers issued a statement saying they were going to show in court 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 court ruling “demonstrates how these misguided allegations seriously harmed Mr. Benjamin and unfairly cost him the position of lieutenant governor.”
“While today is a great day for justice, democracy and the rule of law, it is tragic that this case was even brought and that this decision was necessary,” the lawyers said.
“From the beginning, we have been disappointed and shocked that the prosecution has filed such flimsy and baseless charges, based on nothing more than fundraising efforts and support for a charitable organization that provides much-needed funding for Harlem public schools.” they added.
They said Benjamin “is grateful to have vindicated himself and looks forward to other opportunities to serve the people of New York and his community in Harlem.”