Appeals Court Revives Corruption Case Against Ex-Lieutenant Governor

A federal appeals court on Friday revived corruption charges against former Lt. Gov. Brian A. Benjamin of New York, saying prosecutors had sufficiently demonstrated a plan to funnel $50,000 in state money to a now-deceased developer in exchange for campaign contributions.

The appeals court’s decision reversed a ruling in December 2022 by Judge J. Paul Oetken of Federal District Court in Manhattan that threw out the bribery charges. The decision sent the case back to Judge Oetken for further proceedings, although Mr. Benjamin may appeal.

The prosecution, which began nearly two years ago, is now proceeding under further shadow of uncertainty. The developer, Gerald Migdol, who was likely to be prosecutors’ primary witness, died in February. The appellate ruling also comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2023 that narrowed the kinds of corruption cases that federal prosecutors may bring.

But on Friday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said that in Mr. Benjamin’s case, the indictment “sufficiently alleged an explicit quid pro quo.”

A lawyer for Mr. Benjamin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The charges against Mr. Benjamin grew out of his actions in 2019, while he was a Democratic state senator representing Harlem.

Federal prosecutors charged that Mr. Benjamin used his office to obtain a $50,000 state grant for a nonprofit run by Mr. Migdol, a real estate developer and homeless shelter operator, in exchange for Mr. Migdol arranging thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions for Mr. Benjamin.

Mr. Migdol, who eventually pleaded guilty to related charges, cooperated with the government in its case against Mr. Benjamin before his death.

Mr. Benjamin was also charged with falsifying campaign donation forms in connection with the scheme and providing false information during a background check in August 2021, after he was chosen by Gov. Kathy Hochul to be the state’s lieutenant governor. Mr. Benjamin still faces trial on those two counts, which Judge Oetken allowed to stand.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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