Disgraced ex-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin appeared in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday as a judge set his preliminary hearing on bribery allegations for early next year.
Benjamin – who was indicted last month on conspiracy charges related to an alleged campaign finance scheme – did not speak during the brief hearing.
His attorney, Barry Berke, said they would dismiss the charges, which he said formed part of the most aggressive political corruption case ever prosecuted by the government.
“We hope there will be no trial,” he told Judge Paul Oetken, who had set a tentative trial date for January 23, 2023.
Berke went on to say that the charges against Benjamin were laid in a “speaking indictment,” in which he claimed prosecutors in the Southern District of New York had spun a narrative about his client, but had not shown conclusively that a crime had been committed .
Benjamin, 45, is accused of funneling bogus campaign contributions into his unsuccessful campaign for the city auditor when he was a senator.
His attorney claimed the prosecution did not allege clear quid pro quo or show that the Harlem Democrat committed a crime.
“We have not found a single case ever brought that even remotely approximates this case,” Berke said.
Before Berke made his joke before the judge, prosecutor David Abramowicz said the government was working to turn over evidence it found to Benjamin’s attorneys, including 2.8 terabytes of data.
Prosecutors allege Benjamin steered a $50,000 state-funded grant to a Harlem real estate developer who, in turn, pooled illegal campaign funds for the Democrats’ failed 2019 bid for city control.
It was revealed earlier this week that Benjamin’s co-conspirator, Gerald Migdol, pleaded guilty to a series of crimes over his role in the plot – and prosecutors said he was settling with the once-powerful police force in return.
“I made a quid pro quo agreement with Brian Benjamin, who was then the state senator,” Migdol told Judge Ona Wang in April, according to a transcript of the hearing unsealed this week.
“Specifically, he offered to receive a $50,000 government grant to my nonprofit in exchange for campaign contributions that I agreed to and raised for him. Calls were made and texts and emails sent to and from Manhattan in furtherance of the agreement,” he added.
After his arrest, US Attorney Damian Williams said Benjamin clearly engaged in bribery.
“Tax money for campaign contributions – quid pro quo, this for – that’s bribery, plain and simple,” he told reporters at a news conference.
Benjamin has pleaded not guilty.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/12/ex-lt-gov-brian-benjamin-appears-in-court-as-trial-date-set/ Ex-Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin appears in court for a hearing