U.S. Attorney: ‘Political Corruption in New York Is Indeed Rampant’

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explains the scheme.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara explains the scheme.

Two days ago, when U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said New York State corruption cases were beginning to feel like the movie Groundhog Day, he was rather prescient. This afternoon, Mr. Bharara unsealed charges against Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, making him the third New York City lawmaker to be charged with corruption this week. Additionally, another Bronx Assemblyman, Nelson Castro, was the cooperating witness in the latest case and will resign today.

“So here we go again,” Mr. Bharara began. “This has become something of a habit. For the second time in three days, we unsealed criminal charges against a sitting member of the State Legislature. And based on what is alleged in this complaint, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the sad conclusion that political corruption in New York is indeed rampant and that the ‘show me the money’ culture in Albany is alive and well.”

Among other things, Mr. Stevenson is accused of exchanging envelopes of cash for writing legislation to benefit the owners of a senior center in his district–the bill in question would place a moratorium on new centers to allegedly provide a local monopoly for the bribers. Mr. Bharara said this “breathtaking bit of corruption” was the ultimate political dishonor.

“Those allegations, if proven, represent an especially breathtaking bit of corruption even by Albany standards. Those allegations represent the corrupt sale of an elected representative’s core duty: a legislator, selling legislation,” he said. “As the recording show, Stevenson was brazen and blunt about putting his core function up for sale.”

Mr. Bharara then pointed to Mr. Stevenson’s alleged quotes obtained through wiretaps, including, “If half of the people up here in Albany was ever caught for what they do … they …. would probably be in [jail] . . . so who are they bullshitting?”

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