Court rules disgraced ex-NY Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin can face bribery and fraud charges: ‘Explicit quid pro quo’


Former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin can face bribery and fraud charges after all, a federal appeals court ruled Friday — finding prosecutors provided enough evidence that the disgraced pol engaged in an “explicit quid pro quo.”

The three-judge panel in Manhattan unanimously agreed to reverse a lower court’s December 2022 ruling that tossed the most serious of the charges against the Democrat, who resigned as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s No. 2 after his arrest that April.

“We conclude that the indictment sufficiently alleged an explicit quid pro quo,” states the ruling by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals. “Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings.”

Brian Benjamin
Brian Benjamin was a rising star in Albany before he was arrested on bribery charges in 2022. REUTERS

Benjamin was accused of steering $50,000 in state funds to a nonprofit controlled by real estate developer Gerald Migdol in exchange for contributions to his state Senate and city comptroller campaigns.

Judge J. Paul Oetken, of the Southern District of New York, had ruled that prosecutors failed to show an explicit example of quid pro quo between Benjamin and Migdol, who died in February.

But the appeals court found a jury could infer that there had been an agreement between the two men based on the alleged facts presented in the indictment.

“The fact that the agreement was never stated expressly is immaterial because the existence of the agreement, and the clarity of its terms to Migdol and Benjamin, could be inferred from their words and actions,” the ruling reads.

It remains unclear if Benjamin will face prosecution, as Migdol’s death in February leaves the government without a key witness. A spokesman for the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

The case could make its way to the US Supreme Court, which has shown an appetite for weakening federal fraud and bribery statutes. Last year, the high court tossed out corruption charges against former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco and Buffalo contractor Louis Ciminelli for their connection in two scandals involving public funds.

Kathy Hochul
Staffers for Gov. Kathy Hochul say they believe the vetting process for Brian Benjamin was “rushed”. Andrew Schwartz /

Benjamin was announced as Hochul’s pick in August 2021 after she left the role and became governor following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.

At the time, Benjamin had been considered a rising star in Albany. The Harlem pol was picked by party bosses to fill a vacant state senate seat in 2017 and mounted an unsuccessful bid for New York City comptroller.

Just eight months later, Benjamin was arrested and later stepped down despite pleading innocent to the charges.

Staffers for Hochul later called the process to vet Benjamin “rushed”, saying it ignored glaring red flags.

“Those allegations are false,” Benjamin’s lawyer, Barry Berke, said in a statement Friday.

“The facts are clear that Mr. Benjamin did nothing other than engage in routine fundraising and support a non-profit providing needed resources to Harlem public schools,” Berke said. “We remain confident that Mr. Benjamin will be vindicated in this case, which never should have been brought.”

With Post wires


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