Disgraced ex-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin confirmed up in court docket Monday with ex-Mayor Invoice de Blasio’s former protection lawyer — who right away floated the identical idea that served get de Blasio off the hook in a “pay-to-play” corruption probe.
Barry Berke appeared to telegraph his planned system on behalf of Benjamin, who resigned final week subsequent his indictment in an alleged bribery plan involving far more than $50,000 in illegal donations to his marketing campaign committees.
“This is a quite uncommon political corruption situation since the prices are dependent solely on political contributions and no personalized advantages,” Berke explained for the duration of an visual appearance in Manhattan federal court.
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 Campaign for A single New York nonprofit and the 2014 point out Senate elections.
The next yr, then-performing Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim mentioned he’d made the decision not to file costs in opposition to de Blasio in element for the reason that of “the distinct problems in proving prison intent in corruption strategies exactly where there is no proof of personal revenue.”
Also during Tuesday’s court docket session, Choose Paul Oetken gave Benjamin authorization to vacation to New Jersey just after Berke claimed that “he has loved ones there” and prosecutors didn’t object.
The move came amid endeavours by Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democratic officials to switch Benjamin as her working mate in the June 28 main elections by obtaining him disqualify himself by transferring out of state.
All through an look final week on WNYC radio, Hochul stated “that is the possibility, I feel … because dying is the other one” and joked that host Brian Lehrer ought to get included when he instructed she request Benjamin, a former point out senator from Harlem, to quickly relocate to the Backyard garden State.
“You give him a connect with, Brian, and you can notify him that’s your considered,” she reported.
“I really do not have control in excess of that.”
Benjamin, who is free on a $250,000 bond, was formerly granted authorization to journey to the federal districts of Northern Ga and Japanese Virginia.
Benjamin is accused of arranging a $50,000 state grant to developer and law firm Gerald Migdol’s Close friends of Community University Harlem in trade for Migdol allegedly funneling a little bit extra than that to Benjamin’s condition Senate campaign committee and his unsuccessful bid for town comptroller final yr.
Migdol was busted in the alleged scheme previous yr and is reportedly cooperating with the feds towards Benjamin.
In a geared up assertion, Berke named Benjamin’s 5-count indictment “an unprecedented attempt to criminally charge an upstanding condition chief for schedule fundraising and support of a non-financial gain providing essential methods to Harlem general public educational institutions.”
Berke also reported he and co-counsel Dani James determined to just take the situation “because we are shocked and dismayed that the prosecution would bring these flimsy and unwarranted prices towards a sitting down Lt. Governor and so close to the main election.”
A spokesperson for Manhattan US Lawyer Damian Williams did not instantly return a ask for for remark.
Benjamin was represented at his arraignment last week by legal professionals James Gatta and William Harrington, who filed paperwork Monday to withdraw from the case mainly because Benjamin experienced replaced them with Berke and James’ firm.
In 2018, de Blasio acknowledged owing Berke’s organization, Kramer Levin, all around $300,000 in unpaid legal service fees, which The City internet site last yr reported experienced possible ballooned to $435,000 with desire.
“Obviously, I intend to handle that personal debt and set jointly the resources around time,” de Blasio said when questioned about the matter in October.
Berke declined to say what, if everything, de Blasio had considering that carried out to pay out his invoice and de Blasio’s spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.
Berke donated to both equally 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 Dwelling Democrats all through previous President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial and was particular counsel to the Home Judiciary Committee throughout Trump’s initially impeachment.
Supplemental reporting by Carl Campanile