NEW YORK (AP) - A New York State Assemblyman in the Bronx has been charged in a bribery scandal along with four other defendants, on the same day a fellow Bronx State Assemblyman says he is resigning from office.
State Assemblyman Nelson Castro officially announced his resignation Thursday, saying in a statement to the media: "On July 31, 2009, I was indicted by a Bronx County Grand Jury for committing perjury in a 2008 civil matter, held prior to my election to the Assembly. I appreciate the seriousness of my misconduct."
Castro's statement continues saying after his indictment he "agreed to cooperate with the Bronx District Attorney's Office and, later, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, in conjunction with various investigations aimed at rooting out public corruption."
Castro says one result of the investigation was, in fact, the complaint unsealed against Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, charging him with various federal crimes. "I continue to cooperate with State and Federal authorities in this prosecution and in other investigations," Castro said.
Stevenson, of the Bronx, faces bribery conspiracy and other charges after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Bronx County District Attorney Robert Johnson say he drafted and sponsored legislation in exchange for more than $22,000 in cash and campaign contributions.
Bharara and Johnson allege Stevenson took campaign contributions from four individuals who were interested in operating and constructing adult day care centers in the Bronx, and paid Stevenson to sponsor, and ultimately cause to be enacted, legislation that would declare a three-year moratorium on the construction of adult day care centers in New York City, but from which their current centers would be exempted.
Stevenson allegedly accepted bribes from Igor Belyansky, Rostislav Belyansky, Igor Tsimerman, and David Binman, all of whom are also charged in the indictment.
In connection with one of the defendants' adult day care centers on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, Stevenson is also alleged to have used his office to facilitate the issuance of a certificate of occupancy and the installation of a gas line. In addition, he is alleged to have held events in his official capacity to recruit senior citizens to attend a second center on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx.
Federal authorities also said Thursday that a second assemblyman is charged in a sealed indictment, cooperated in the corruption probe, and has agreed to resign as a result.
Silver released a statement Thursday encouraging Stevenson to resign, as well:
"Assemblyman Stevenson's alleged actions as outlined by the federal charges against him are a clear violation of the public trust and cannot be tolerated. I believe that given the evidence that has been presented, he should seriously consider whether he can continue to maintain the public trust. I am encouraging him to resign."
Prosecutors say Stevenson took bribes in exchange for drafting, proposing and agreeing to enact legislation to aid his co-defendants' businesses.
It was not clear who would represent Stevenson. His father and grandfather were both elected officials in the Bronx - late District Leader Edward A. Stevenson Jr. and the late Assemblyman Edward A. Stevenson Sr. both served the 79th Assembly District.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested in alleged plot to bribe his way into New York City mayor's race. Several other politicians also were charged in that case. Stevenson's case is not related.
"It seems like business as usual in Albany. We haven't gone a few months in years without someone being arrested on corruption charges of some sort," said Bill Mahoney with NYPIRG.
Mahoney is now joining with other good government groups, including the League of Women Voters. Their spokeswoman, Barbara Bartoletti, says this shows the need for comprehensive campaign finance reform.
"We need better enforcement, more disclosure, closing of the loopholes, lowering if campaign contributions and certainly public financing, so we've known this for probably 20 years that this needs to be done. It's a heavy lift in the legislature and hopefully what has happened this week will open that window of opportunity," said Bartoletti.
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