Updated Dec 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Judge drops corruption charges against former New York Lt. Gov. Benjamin

ieutenant governor of New York, Brian Benjamin attends the Dapper Dan Preview Capsule Collection during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Spring Studios on September 12, 2021 in New York City.

Then-lieutenant governor of New York, Brian Benjamin, attends an event during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 12, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for IMG Fashion

A federal judge dropped bribery and corruption charges against former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin Monday, ruling the "indictment fails to allege an explicit quid pro quo," per the filing.

Driving the news: U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken of the Southern District of New York wrote in a decision that "the Court concludes that the indictment fails to allege an explicit quid pro quo, which is an essential element of the bribery and honest services wire fraud charges brought against Benjamin."

  • Federal prosecutors later Monday appealed Oetken's decision to drop some of the charges charges against Benjamin.

Details: Oetken said the court would throw out three counts of corruption against Benjamin, a Democrat, but a motion to throw out two other counts that the former lieutenant governor allegedly falsified records was denied.

  • "The Second Circuit has held — again, explicitly — that 'proof of an express promise is necessary when the payments are made in the form of campaign contributions,'" Oetken wrote.

What they're saying: "Today’s decision shows how these wrongful charges so harmed Mr. Benjamin and unfairly cost him his position as Lt. Governor," defense lawyers Barry H. Berke and Dani James said in a statement.

  • "The dismissal of this now discredited bribery theory also makes clear how the indictment was a direct assault on the democratic process."
  • "Mr. Benjamin is thankful for his vindication and looks forward to new opportunities to serve the people of New York and his Harlem community."
  • A representative for the attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

The big picture: Benjamin resigned in April after he was arrested for campaign finance-related federal bribery conspiracy charges.

  • The federal indictment accused Benjamin of soliciting campaign contributions from a New York real estate developer in exchange for $50,000 in state funds for the developer's nonprofit in Harlem.
  • Benjamin was appointed lieutenant governor by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) in 2021, and before that he was a New York state senator.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments.

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