ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin has resigned effective immediately. His resignation came hours after he was arrested on charges of bribery, honest services wire fraud, and falsification of records.
Benjamin was arrested Tuesday in a federal corruption investigation. The indictment alleges that he schemed to obtain campaign contributions for his failed bid for New York City comptroller from a real estate developer in exchange for a $50,000 state grant. He reportedly offered his official authority and influence in the New York State Senate to funnel the funds.
After his arrest, Benjamin resigned from his position as lieutenant governor. Attorneys issued a statement on his behalf, saying:
“There has never been a federal case like this in America. Brian supported a $50,000 grant to Friends of Public School Harlem. Every dollar was to buy supplies for public school students in Harlem. There was nothing inappropriate about this grant.
After today’s charges, Brian will resign his duties as Lieutenant Governor and suspend his campaign. He will focus his energies on explaining in court why his actions were laudable—not criminal.”
He looks forward to when this case is finished so he can rededicate himself to public service.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul said she accepted his resignation and said in-part: “While the legal process plays out, it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as Lieutenant Governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government, and I will continue working every day to deliver for them.”
New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will now become acting lieutenant governor while still maintaining her leadership role. An exact timeline on the process has not been made public, yet.
Benjamin was sworn-in as lieutenant governor in September after Hochul took on the top job upon the resignation of former governor Andrew Cuomo over sexual harassment allegations. Benjamin said he was vetted by New York State Police when the probe into his previous campaign’s finances began.
“The state police did a thorough investigation. I participated in that, and the state police gave a recommendation to the governor,” he said. “And that was the process. That typically is the process for any appointments. I followed the process as it was supposed to be followed.”
Prior to becoming lieutenant governor, Benjamin was a state senator from Harlem. He has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University and a master’s of business administration from Harvard Business School and worked as a developer of affordable housing. He was the state’s second Black lieutenant governor.
The New York State Democratic Primary is in June. The New York State Board of Elections told NEWS10 Benjamin’s arrest would not take him off the ballot. A conviction would put him out of office by operation of law; however, he’d still be on the ballot despite his resignation. Hochul could pick a new sitting lieutenant governor. If she does, it still does not change Benjamin’s ballot status.