NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It took the jury just over an hour to issue a guilty verdict against Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson in his corruption trial.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Stevenson was convicted on all counts Monday afternoon. No defense was presented in the case.
This was the first major corruption trial and the first conviction in the latest wave of Albany legislative scandals, Cornell reported.
“As a unanimous jury swiftly found, Assemblyman Stevenson brazenly betrayed the public that elected him,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Monday. “Graft and greed are intolerable in Albany, and we will go to trial as often as we have to until government in New York is cleaned up.”
Closing arguments in the case wrapped up earlier Monday.
Federal prosecutor Brian Jacobs summed up by telling jurors that the Democratic lawmaker demanded illegal bribes in return for performing official acts.
The jury heard evidence that Stevenson took envelopes stuffed with more than $20,000 in cash in order to pass legislation that would bar the opening of any new adult daycare centers in his district. It was move intended to create a monopoly for a couple of Russian businessmen.
In response to the defense argument that no money changed hands, the prosecutor reminded jurors that Stevenson was caught on tape discussing the payments. Stevenson referred to them variously as “a blessing,” “a nice little package,” “chinchillas” and “cha-ching,” Cornell reported.
Stevenson’s attorney Muhammad Ibn Bashir bashed the key government witness Sigfredo Gonzalez as a man who cannot be trusted, Cornell reported.
Gonzalez had taped his conversations with the assemblyman. The defense claimed Gonzales was conning everybody.
But prosecutors argued that the tapes tell the story and provide evidence that Stevenson made a decision to sell his legislative powers for cash bribes.
Stevenson faces up to 55 years in prison when he’s sentenced.
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