Judge dismisses corruption charges against former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin

Lt. Governor Arrested New York
FILE – Former New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin leaves a hearing in federal court on April 18, 2022, in New York. A judge has thrown out bribery and fraud charges against Benjamin, leaving him facing only records falsification charges, Federal Judge J. Paul Oetken ruled Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. He says prosecutors failed to allege an explicit example in which Benjamin provided a favor for a bribe. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File) Kevin Hagen/AP

Judge dismisses corruption charges against former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin

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A federal judge dismissed corruption and bribery charges Monday against former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin after determining that the “indictment fails to allege an explicit quid pro quo.”

Benjamin, who was forced to resign earlier in the year after being arrested, stood accused of funneling state money to a real estate investor in exchange for campaign contributions to his 2021 campaign for comptroller. Prosecutors have already appealed the dismissal.

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“Today’s decision shows how these wrongful charges so harmed Mr. Benjamin and unfairly cost him his position as Lt. Governor,” Benjamin’s attorneys wrote in a statement, per the Washington Post. “The dismissal of this now discredited bribery theory also makes clear how the indictment was a direct assault on the democratic process.”

Prosecutors slapped Benjamin with bribery, honest services wire fraud, and two counts of falsification of records over an alleged scheme in which he presented real estate investor Gerald Migdol with a $50,000 check for his charity, Friends of Public School Harlem, in September 2019. Benjamin did this in his capacity as a state senator.

A month later, Benjamin filed to run for comptroller, and prosecutors highlighted campaign contributions he solicited from Migdol, who was arrested last year and charged with aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and other charges, per the New York Times. Prosecutors alleged that Migdol made donations to Benjamin under other people’s names.

In Monday’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken cited court precedents that stipulated the payments needed to be “made in return for an explicit promise or undertaking by the official to perform” an official action. He maintained that prosecutors failed to make that case.

“The Court concludes that the Indictment fails to allege an explicit quid pro quo, which is an essential element of the bribery and honest services wire fraud charges brought against Benjamin. As a result, Defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted as to the first three counts,” Oetken wrote.

However, Oetken left a pair of falsification of records counts intact, meaning Benjamin could still face up to 40 years behind bars, the Washington Post reported. A trial had previously been slated for January.

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Benjamin was elevated to lieutenant governor by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) following the resignation of her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, in 2021 amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Hochul won election for a full term as governor last month. Antonio Delgado is currently serving as lieutenant governor.

The Washington Examiner reached out to prosecutors at the U.S. attorney’s office for comment.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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