Legal Analysis on the Arrest and Resignation of New York Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin

New York State Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin resigned from his office after being arrested on fraud and bribery charges.

WGRZ 2 On Your Side’s coverage on the story included an interview with attorney Barry N. Covert. Mr. Covert provided legal analysis that included: a review of the specific charges Brian Benjamin faces, the potential penalties if Benjamin is found guilty of the charges, and whether circumstances involved in the terms of Brian Benjamin’s bail in this case forced him to resign as New York State’s Lieutenant Governor.

WGRZ reports that federal prosecutors accused Brian Benjamin of being part of a campaign finance scheme. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York outlined the case against Brian Benjamin, which stated that Benjamin accepted campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for a state grant that was given to that business. In their report, WGRZ quoted Barry Covert as stating “The laws on raising campaign funds and identifying where the money comes from are very strict. But, it is not clear how strong the case of proof is against Benjamin.”

Continuing reading for excerpts of Barry Covert’s discussion with WGRZ anchors Scott Levin and Maryalice Demler. Click the videos below to watch WGRZ’s full report on this case, which includes Mr. Covert’s legal analysis.

What are the charges Brian Benjamin is facing? What type of punishment he could face if convicted on all counts?

BNC: He’s facing conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery counts themselves, theft of honest services, and for filing false business documents. Three of those counts carry up to 20 years of incarceration. He likely wouldn’t be facing that if he were found guilty, because he doesn’t have any prior significant criminal history. But, they are serious charges of bribery, theft of services, and the false documents. And it’s very serious allegations.

Part of Benjamin’s bail package restricts his travel in New York to the southern and the eastern districts. So, he will not be able to travel to Albany without being on bail. But it’s unclear whether that restriction played any role in his resignation. What do you make of that restriction and is it normal in a bribery or fraud case like this?

BNC: It really is not normal in a bribery or fraud case to have these types of restrictions. But they did state that he could ask for permission to go out of the district. It depends on which judge you get; what the exact charges and allegations are. It doesn’t seem necessary in this case to restrict his travel. He doesn’t seem to be a risk of flight, if you look at the case from the outside. But, it is a restriction on his travel. I would doubt that plays in to why he resigned, because he was permitted to ask for permission to travel to Albany and I would suspect that the court would expect that the permission would be granted if he remained in his position as lieutenant governor.