NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former New York state Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday, four months after being convicted of accepting $22,000 in bribes from businessmen in 2012 and 2013.

Stevenson, who served as a Democrat from the Bronx, was sentenced by Manhattan U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, who also ordered him to forfeit $22,000.

Attorney Murray Richman said Stevenson was struggling financially when businessmen offered him bribes representing about a third of his income.

Prosecutors said Stevenson deserved a serious sentence, in part, because it appears he never lived in the district that he served when he was running for office. They said he betrayed the public by taking bribes.

Stevenson clasped his hands over his heart as he pleaded with the judge to show him mercy, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

During Stevenson’s trial, 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 day care centers in his district. It was move intended to create a monopoly for a couple of Russian businessmen.

Prosecutors said at trial 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 in January.

Defense attorney Murray Richman said Wednesday that Stevenson is a good man who made some poor choices.

“Things happen,” he said. “As I said, you can’t put a stumbling block in the way of a blind man, nor can you put people in temptation. You place them in situations such as this. That’s rather difficult at the very best.”

Stevenson could have been sentenced to as many as 55 years in prison.

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