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N.Y. State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson Arrested On Bribery Charges

Federal Prosecutors: Show-Me-The-Money Culture In Albany Is Alive And Well
Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (credit: http://assembly.state.ny.us/)

Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (credit: http://assembly.state.ny.us/)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — “Watch your backs.”

That is the warning from federal prosecutors to crooked New York politicians, after another one was arrested Thursday.

A state assemblyman from the Bronx and four others were charged in a bribery scheme.

It appears the circus has returned to Albany. It’s the second corruption scandal to embarrass Empire State politics this week, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

WEB EXTRA: Read The Complaint (.pdf)

Two more elected officials now bare the title “corrupt.” One was charged with accepting bribes for legislative bills, while the other helped catch the first to avoid prosecution on his own dirty deeds. This has been a bad week for New York politicians. The tally is one state senator, two assemblymen, one city councilman, one upstate mayor and two Republican party big wigs all facing corruption charges.

The big question in Albany may be this: when the Legislature reconvenes, how many members will be left?

“If you are a corrupt official in New York, you have to be worried that one of your colleagues is working with us and that your misdeeds will be recorded and reported to us and it will be much harder to escape punishment,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced the latest scandal to rock the New York political world. This time Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson took the fall.

The charge: accepting $22,000 in cash bribes and campaign contributions in exchange for a legislative bill that would give four Bronx businessmen preferential treatment in building senior daycare centers.

“Those allegations, if proven, represent an especially breathtaking bit of corruption even by Albany standards. A legislator selling legislation,” Bharara said.

But he wasn’t the only lawmaker to go down. Stevenson was caught after another Bronx assemblyman, Nelson Castro, was caught in a corruption probe and agreed to become a government informant. As part of his plea deal Castro resigned from the Assembly on Thursday.

“Today I announce that I am resigning my seat in the New York State Assembly, effective Monday, April 8, 2013. On July 31, 2009, I was indicted by a Bronx County Grand Jury for committing perjury in a 2008 civil matter, held prior to my election to the Assembly. I appreciate the seriousness of my misconduct,” Castro said, admitting he was thereafter involved in the investigation into Stevenson — and others. “I deeply regret my misconduct while campaigning before I was elected to office. It is my sincere hope that my constituents remember me most for the good I have done as their representative, rather than for the poor example I set as a candidate.”

A recording made by Castro and others show how pervasive corruption is in Albany:

“Bottom line, if half of the people up here in Albany was ever caught for what they do they would probably be in [jail],” Stevenson said.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson was asked why so many Bronx politicians, including former state Sen. Pedro Espada — seem to be caught with their hands in the till.

“Perhaps some of the elected officials in the Bronx haven’t been as bright. I think I’ve seen that in a number of instances,” Johnson said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement following this latest scandal rocking the state legislature:

“The allegations of public corruption by City and State officials revealed this week are appalling. New Yorkers deserve a government that is as good as the people it serves and the events of the last few days fail this and every standard of public service. As Attorney General I prosecuted numerous public corruption cases, including putting former Senator Espada and Comptroller Hevesi behind bars, and believe firmly that anytime the public’s trust is violated, we must act quickly and aggressively to hold the guilty parties accountable,” Cuomo said. “I commend US Attorney Preet Bharara, District Attorney Robert Johnson and their partners in law enforcement on their dedication to prosecuting corruption at every level. Those of us committed to the public and honored to hold its trust have zero tolerance for the actions brought to light this week, and will continue to use our power to fight to ensure integrity and trust to government in New York.”

Meanwhile, state Sen. Malcolm Smith, charged two days ago in a bribery scheme to fix the 2013 New York City mayoral election, left his home for the first time Thursday, but refused to answer reporters’ questions.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called on Stevenson to resign, saying the actions outlined in the federal charges are “a clear violation of the public trust and cannot be tolerated.”

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