Disgraced ex-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin showed up in court Monday with ex-Mayor Invoice de Blasio’s previous defense attorney — who straight away floated the exact principle that aided get de Blasio off the hook in a “pay-to-play” corruption probe.
Barry Berke appeared to telegraph his prepared system on behalf of Benjamin, who resigned very last 7 days pursuing his indictment in an alleged bribery plan involving extra than $50,000 in unlawful donations to his marketing campaign committees.
“This is a incredibly strange political corruption scenario for the reason that the expenses are primarily based exclusively on political contributions and no private benefits,” Berke explained during an physical appearance in Manhattan federal courtroom.
in 2016, de Blasio was referred for investigation by the point out Board of Elections, sparking state and federal probes into fundraising for his 2013 mayoral marketing campaign, his controversial Marketing campaign for A person New York nonprofit and the 2014 state Senate elections.
The following year, then-performing Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim explained he’d determined not to file expenses from de Blasio in section for the reason that of “the specific issue in proving felony intent in corruption strategies exactly where there is no proof of personalized earnings.”
Also through Tuesday’s court session, Decide Paul Oetken gave Benjamin permission to journey to New Jersey soon after Berke said that “he has spouse and children there” and prosecutors didn’t item.
The shift came amid initiatives by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democratic officers to swap Benjamin as her running mate in the June 28 most important elections by getting him disqualify himself by relocating out of state.
All through an visual appearance last 7 days on WNYC radio, Hochul explained “that is the option, I imagine … due to the fact demise is the other one” and joked that host Brian Lehrer should get concerned when he advised she check with Benjamin, a former state senator from Harlem, to quickly relocate to the Garden Point out.
“You give him a get in touch with, Brian, and you can notify him that’s your thought,” she stated.
“I do not have handle above that.”
Benjamin, who is free of charge on a $250,000 bond, was formerly granted authorization to travel to the federal districts of Northern Georgia and Japanese Virginia.
Benjamin is accused of arranging a $50,000 state grant to developer and lawyer Gerald Migdol’s Good friends of Community Faculty Harlem in exchange for Migdol allegedly funneling a little bit more than that to Benjamin’s point out Senate marketing campaign committee and his failed bid for city comptroller previous year.
Migdol was busted in the alleged scheme previous yr and is reportedly cooperating with the feds versus Benjamin.
In a ready statement, Berke known as Benjamin’s 5-count indictment “an unprecedented attempt to criminally charge an upstanding state chief for schedule fundraising and aid of a non-income giving required methods to Harlem general public universities.”
Berke also said he and co-counsel Dani James determined to take the circumstance “because we are stunned and dismayed that the prosecution would provide these flimsy and unwarranted costs from a sitting down Lt. Governor and so close to the primary election.”
A spokesperson for Manhattan US Lawyer Damian Williams didn’t quickly return a ask for for remark.
Benjamin was represented at his arraignment final 7 days by legal professionals James Gatta and William Harrington, who submitted paperwork Monday to withdraw from the scenario due to the fact Benjamin experienced replaced them with Berke and James’ company.
In 2018, de Blasio acknowledged owing Berke’s organization, Kramer Levin, all-around $300,000 in unpaid lawful fees, which The Town internet site final year mentioned experienced very likely ballooned to $435,000 with interest.
“Obviously, I intend to handle that debt and put alongside one another the means more than time,” de Blasio mentioned when asked about the issue in October.
Berke declined to say what, if everything, de Blasio experienced considering that done to fork out his bill and de Blasio’s spokesman didn’t straight away return a ask for for remark.
Berke donated to both of those of de Blasio’s mayoral races and was his marketing campaign finance committee chairman for the 2013 election.
In 2015, de Blasio appointed Berke as his official consultant on Lincoln Center’s board of administrators.
Berke was also main counsel for the Residence Democrats throughout former President Donald Trump’s next impeachment demo and was particular counsel to the Residence Judiciary Committee in the course of Trump’s first impeachment.
Extra reporting by Carl Campanile