Former State Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a key player in a major political corruption case last week, appeared in State Supreme Court in the Bronx Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to perjury charges he faces as part of a corruption case. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
In his first public appearance since resigning last week, former Assemblyman Nelson Castro listened as a judge unsealed an indictment.
Castro faces three counts of perjury stemming from a civil hearing which took place before Castro had even taken office.
"First and foremost, I would like to apologize to my constituents who put their faith and trust in me for the last four years," Castro said. "During that time, I worked very hard for my people."
Castro has been cooperating with state and federal prosecutors, wearing a wire for the last four years as part of a corruption probe. Last week, the U.S. attorney detailed the charges which implicated Assemblyman Eric Stevenson.
"This was a formal proceeding," said Michael Farkas, Castro's attorney. "There are certain procedural rules that need to be followed. If Mr. Castro continues to cooperate, he continues to be honest, he continues to do what is expected of him, we expect that the charges will be dismissed."
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined proposed changes to the criminal code aimed at rooting out public corruption. Veteran lawmaker Joe Lentol, who chairs the powerful codes committee, said he has some concerns.
"I've taken a look at the governor's proposals, and they are very confusing," Lentol said. "To just be honest about it, I haven't studied them carefully, as the governor has. I know a lot of this was proposed by the district attorneys, but what we don't want to do is discourage people from running for state office."
In a radio interview, Cuomo said changes to the criminal code would be part of a larger reform package, which should also include campaign finance and election law reform.
"If you want to really change the system, you have to change the whole system," Cuomo said. "I am not a big piecemeal reformer. I think we really have a fundamentally dysfunctional system. I think we have to change the whole system."
The individual corruption cases are moving through the justice system as eyes turn to Albany to see how the legislature will respond. Castro is due back in court on September 18 if the charges against him are not dropped before that.