Benjamin, who has pleaded guilty, has reshuffled the legal team since being arrested. Dani R. James and Mr. Berke were brought in as his new lawyers. Mr. Berke represented Bill de Blasio in several inquiries into the former mayor’s fund-raising practices and later served as a lead counsel for both impeachments of former President Donald J. Trump.
Prosecutors claim that Benjamin used his state Senate membership power to direct $50,000 to a charity managed by Gerald Migdol, a Harlem real-estate developer. In return, Mr. Migdol orchestrated thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to Mr. Benjamin’s failed campaign in 2021 for New York City comptroller and his State Senate campaign, the authorities said.
What to Know about the Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin
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The investigation. Federal authorities have been investigating whether Mr. Benjamin participated in an effort to funnel fraudulent contributions to his unsuccessful 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller. This inquiry stemmed from an indictment charging a Harlem real estate investor with trying to conceal contributions to a candidate in that race.
His resignation. On April 12, Mr. Benjamin was arrested and stepped down as lieutenant governor hours after federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment implicating him in a brazen scheme to enrich his political campaigns with illegal donations. Ms. Hochul could be exposed as a serious political liability if Mr. Benjamin resigns.
According to The New York Times’ report, Mr. Migdol has been helping prosecutors with the investigation. He pleaded guilty last fall to wire fraud, and aggravated ID theft.
“Exploiting one’s official authority by allocating state funds as part of a bribe to procure donations to a political campaign, and engaging in activity to cover up the bribe, is illegal,” Michael J. Driscoll, the head of the F.B.I.’s New York office, said in a statement when the charges were announced on April 12.
In the meantime, the ramifications continue to ripple through New York City politics.
Although Mr. Benjamin immediately resigned and suspended the campaign, it is extremely difficult to replace him or remove his name from the June Democratic primary ballot.
He will be joined by Diana Reyna – a former New York City Councilwoman and Ana Maria Archila – an activist backed left-leaning Working Families Party.
If Ms. Hochul wins her primary, she could be on a Democratic general election platform this fall with a running-mate she didn’t choose.
Mr. Benjamin is currently out on bond and did not speak as he left the courtroom with his lawyers. J. Paul Oetken, the judge, stated that he might schedule a trial date for next month.