NY Gov. Hochul Blames Time Constraints for Picking Benjamin as Lieutenant Governor New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during the 2022 New York State Democratic Convention at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York City on Feb. 17. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 26 April 2022 09:01 AM
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a television interview Monday that she did not fully vet her choice for lieutenant governor Brian Benjamin, who is now under indictment on bribery and fraud charges, due to time constraints resulting from her quick ascension to governor after Andrew Cuomo resigned.
"We had a very compacted time frame [to select a lieutenant governor], when I found out, like the rest of the world did, that I would be governor in two weeks," Hochul said during a televised interview with News 12 Long Island Monday.
Former Gov. Cuomo resigned from his post in August 2021 amid a flurry of sexual assault and harassment allegations, launching Hochul, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Buffalo, into the seat.
She chose then-state Sen. Brian Benjamin, D-Harlem, for the number two role in Albany, the New York Times reported in August.
Hochul and Benjamin were both running as Democrats for full terms in those positions this year, until Benjamin was arrested April 12 on charges of bribery and making false statements while being vetted for the lieutenant governor position, according to the Department of Justice indictment.
The indictment from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York alleges that Benjamin used his power while in office to direct state taxpayer grant money to a charity of a developer who, in turn, bundled political contributions back to his 2019 campaign for New York City comptroller.
The indictment further alleges that Benjamin tried to cover up the scheme while being examined for the lieutenant governor position.
"As alleged, Brian Benjamin used his power as a New York state senator to secure a state-funded grant in exchange for contributions to his own political campaigns," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a press release announcing the indictment April 12. "By doing so, Benjamin abused his power and effectively used state funds to support his political campaigns. My Office and our partners at the FBI and DOI will continue to ensure that politicians who put themselves over the public interest will be prosecuted."
He has since pleaded not guilty to the charges and is currently free on $250,000 bond while awaiting trial.
In her televised interview, Hochul said that she met with Benjamin immediately after his indictment and arrest and determined that he should resign from his position for the good of the residents of the state.
She said that the vetting process to replace him would be much more thorough.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.