Politicial Bribes

Defense against corruption of Brian Benjamin: he obtained “no personal benefit”

Mr. Benjamin, who pleaded not guilty, has shuffled his legal team since his arrest, bringing in Mr. Berke and Kramer Levin’s Dani R. James as new attorneys. Mr. Berke represented Bill de Blasio in several investigations into the former mayor’s fundraising practices and later served as lead counsel for the two impeachments of former President Donald J. Trump.

Prosecutors said Mr. Benjamin used his power while a member of the state Senate to direct $50,000 in public funds to a charity run by Harlem real estate developer Gerald Migdol. In return, Mr. Migdol orchestrated thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to Mr. Benjamin’s failed 2021 campaign for New York City Comptroller and his state Senate campaign, authorities said.

Mr. Migdol, who pleaded not guilty last fall to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, has been helping prosecutors with the investigation, The New York Times reported.

“It is illegal to exploit one’s official authority by allocating public funds as part of a bribe to obtain political campaign donations and to engage in any activity to conceal the bribe “, said Michael J. Driscoll, chief of the office of the FBI in New York. said in a statement when the charges were announced on April 12.

In the meantime, the ramifications of the case continue to reverberate in New York politics.

Although Mr. Benjamin resigned and suspended his reelection campaign hours after his arrest, state election rules make it extremely difficult for his name to be removed or replaced in the June Democratic primary ballot.

Two other Democrats will appear alongside him: Diana Reyna, a former New York city councilwoman, and Ana Maria Archila, an activist backed by the left-leaning Working Families Party.

This means that if Ms Hochul wins in her own primary contest, she could find herself on a ticket to the Democratic general election this fall with a running mate she did not choose.

Mr. Benjamin, who is free on bail, did not speak in court or as he left with his lawyers. The judge, J. Paul Oetken, said he could set a trial date at a hearing next month.