NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A former New York state assemblyman who is cooperating with federal authorities in a bribery case pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the state perjury case that initially ensnared him.
The indictment unsealed Wednesday in the Bronx against Nelson Castro alleges he lied under oath during a civil proceeding concerning his eligibility for placement on the ballot in a primary election for the 86th Assembly District in 2008.
As WCBS 880′s Irene Cornell reported, both state and federal prosecutors were using Castro as a mole in Albany. He wore a wire and helped snare Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson. Stevenson’s been charged in a bribe-for-legislation scandal.
Cornell reported that prosecutors made a choice when they caught and indicted Castro for committing perjury. They apparently saw value in allowing him to stay out of jail and remain in Albany, Cornell reported.
The Bronx Democrat resigned last week after he said he cooperated with federal officials in the Stevenson bribery scandal. Castro was not charged criminally in that case.
“I improved the lives of so many people in the district and I feel very proud of that. But nonetheless, I’d like to make no excuses for my misconduct,” Castro said outside court on Wednesday. “I intend to take full responsibility for these actions and continue to do what I can do make it right.”
Stevenson’s arrest last Thursday was the second bribery scandal of the week to rock Albany.
Castro’s attorney Michael Farkas said that if his client continues to cooperate with prosecutors, charges against him will be dropped.
“Nelson Castro is obligated to cooperate. But more than that, he’s doing what really I don’t think people might realize right now but in time will come to realize is a great civic duty. He’s helping the government clean up the legislature,” Farkas told reporters including Cornell.
“Say what you will, maybe no one will believe this, but he’s not just doing it out of self-preservation. He’s doing it at least for a very good reason because it’s the right thing to do and I think we’ll all be better off if Albany actually doesn’t believe that you can buy and sell legislation while you’re a sitting official,” Farkas added.
Stevenson, a Democrat, and four businessmen were charged in part with conspiring to pass a bill in the state legislature to protect a new Bronx adult center from competitors for three years to give the center a monopoly against other facilities that might want to offer meals, social activities and supervision for the elderly and disabled.
In a statement after the perjury case became public, Castro said he agreed to cooperate in probes “aimed at rooting out public corruption.” His indictment in the perjury case, brought by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, stemmed from Castro’s activities before he was elected to the Assembly. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Johnson telephoned him to ask that federal and state authorities work the investigation together.
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