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Bronx Assemblyman Charged In Alleged Bribery Scheme, Fellow Lawmaker Resigns

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For the second time in a week, an elected state official has gone before a federal judge on bribery and corruption charges.

Bronx State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, seen above, was arrested Thursday morning and then released on $250,000 bond Thursday following a brief court appearance in Lower Manhattan.

He is due back in court on May 6.

Stevenson, along with four other defendants, including Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro,- who has now resigned, were named in the latest indictment by federal prosecutors Thursday morning.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says Stevenson, a Democrat representing the Assembly's 79th District, accepted more than $22,000 in bribes from four other defendants who were trying to open so-called adult day care centers in the Bronx.

In return for the money, Stevenson allegedly pushed legislation in Albany to help create moratoriums to prevent competing centers from opening.

The alleged legislation would have prohibited the construction of new senior centers in New York City for three years, effectively giving the businessmen a monopoly.

According to the complaint, one of the defendants predicted they would triple their profits if the bill passed.

"Those allegations, if proven, represent an especially breathtaking bit of corruption, even by Albany standards," Bharara said. "Those allegations represent the corrupt sale of an elected representative's core duty, the legislator selling legislation."

According to Thursday's complaint, Stevenson is also said to have contacted Con Edison on behalf of the defendants to help them get a gas line put into one of their centers and allegedly recruited senior citizens to go to another center as well.

Among the senior centers named is the Edward Stevenson Better Life Senior Center, named after his grandfather, a former state assemblyman.

Bharara said the cash exchanges outlined in the complaint began in April 2012 and took place at multiple locations including a Bronx steakhouse and a bathroom at the State Capital.

In one recorded exchange with a cooperating witness, Stevenson is alleged to have brushed off the possible implications of accepting bribes saying, "Bottom line, if half of the people up here in Albany was ever caught for what they do, they would probably be in [jail]. So who are they bull--------?"

"It makes you wonder, when you have dozens and dozens of people, and you've had other people who have been arrested, and you know how the world works, and you know there is a corruption culture problem, it makes you wonder," Bharara said. "You're a thinking citizen. How much other stuff is out there?"

Stevenson's attorney, Murray Richman, told reporters after the Monday court appearance that his client fight the charges.

"I've known the Stevenson family for the past 50 years. I knew his father, his grandfather as well. It's sad to see these charges brought," Richman said. "I have no doubt, in the final analysis, that Eric Stevenson will be exonerated of all the charges that are here."

Additionally, the complaint states that two of the defendants in the case are charged with bribing "Assemblyman-1", who was later identified as Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Castro of the Bronx.

The complaint goes on to say Castro, who represents the Assembly's 86th District, was cooperating with the government's investigation.

As part of the deal, U.S. attorneys have agreed to dismiss an indictment against him.

In a statement, Castro said in part, "It is my sincere hope that my constituents remember me most for the good I have done as their representative, rather than for the poor example I set as a candidate."

Castro's resignation takes effect on Monday.

Prosecutors say Thursday's complaint is not connected to the other charges unveiled Tuesday against State Senator Malcolm Smith and City Councilman Dan Halloran.

In a statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said given the allegations facing Stevenson he is "encouraging him to resign."

Governor Andrew Cuomo said in part in a statement, "The allegations of public corruption by city and state officials revealed this week are appalling. New Yorkers deserve a government that is as good as the people it serves and the events of the last few days fail this and every standard of public service.... Those of us committed to the public and honored to hold its trust have zero tolerance for the actions brought to light this week, and will continue to use our power to fight to ensure integrity and trust to government in New York."

Assemblyman Stevenson wrote in his official biography that he worked for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn doing legislative research.

A spokesman for the speaker says Stevenson left the council in 2010 and does not work there any more.

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