Bronx assemblyman Eric Stevenson charged with corruption
New York State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson and four others were charged with corruption by U.S. prosecutors on Thursday, in the second federal graft case brought against New York politicians this week.
Federal prosecutors have accused Stevenson of taking more than $22,000 in bribes in exchange for official acts, which included drafting and sponsoring legislation to assist four businessmen in opening a network of adult daycare centers in the Bronx and avoid competition.
A Democrat from a prominent Bronx political family who was elected in 2010, Stevenson also sought to have one of the daycare centers named for his grandfather, according to prosecutors.
Stevenson’s district office offered no comment.
“For the second time in three days, we unseal criminal charges against a sitting member of our state legislature,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara told a news conference.
“The allegations illustrate the corruption of an elected representative’s core function – a legislator selling legislation,” Bharara said. “And based on these allegations, it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the sad conclusion that political corruption in New York is indeed rampant and that a show-me-the-money culture in Albany is alive and well.”
Since 1999, 20 state legislators in New York have been ousted because of criminal or ethical issues, according to the good government group Citizens Union. The New York Public Interest Research Group found that, since 2007, state senators have been more likely to be arrested than to lose their seats in a general election.
Allegations that elected officials were all too eager to hand the legislative process over to individuals offering a modest financial awards have shaken the New York political establishment, and led to urgent calls for reform.
In a separate case on Tuesday, Democratic New York State Senator Malcolm A. Smith was arrested and charged with trying to buy a place on the Republican ticket in the city’s mayoral race, in what prosecutors said was his central role in a series of bribery schemes that reflected pervasive corruption in New York politics.
Five other politicians – three Republicans and two Democrats – were also arrested and charged with collectively accepting more than $100,000 of bribes in meetings that often took place in parked cars, hotel rooms and state offices, according to court papers.
In Thursday’s case, two of the other defendants were charged in connection with paying a bribe to another assemblyman, who was cooperating with federal prosecutors at the time. Bharara said the assemblyman, whom he did not identify by name, has agreed to resign from office as part of a non-prosecution agreement.