Prosecutors: Stevenson used bribe to pay for Jaguar

Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson, left, with attorney Murray Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson, left, with attorney Murray Richman, leaves federal court in Manhattan. (April 4, 2013) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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Within a few days of taking a $10,000 bribe, Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson used the money to make cash payments on a Jaguar sports car, Manhattan federal prosecutors disclosed Thursday in a hearing on the legislator's upcoming corruption trial.

"It shows his intent was not to use it to benefit his constituents, but to use it to enrich himself," prosecutor Paul Krieger told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, who said she would admit the evidence.

Stevenson, 46, is scheduled to go to trial Monday on charges he accepted $22,000 from four Russian businessmen in return for legislative help in opening adult day care centers in the Bronx.

His case, one of several recent corruption prosecutions highlighting concerns about Albany ethics, gained notoriety because former Bronx legislator Nelson Castro helped implicate Stevenson as a wire-wearing informant. The four businessmen have pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors have alleged Stevenson's bribe-taking included $4,500 passed in a hotel bathroom, but Thursday was the first mention of the Jaguar. Krieger said Stevenson put down $500 in cash the day after the $10,000 bribe, and $2,400 a few days later.

Stevenson's lawyer, Muhammad Bashir, argued to Preska that the car payments were no more relevant to the bribe charges than evidence that his client had paid $150 for groceries.

Outside court, Stevenson said the Jaguar in question isn't evidence of high living. He described it as a 2003 model worth less than $5,000.

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"It was a cheap, high-mileage, old car," he said.

Prosecutors told Preska that their case -- likely to feature testimony from Castro and another informant, former Bronx Assembly candidate Sigfrido Gonzalez, as well as a portion of 100 hours of secretly recorded tapes -- would last one to two weeks.

Bashir said Stevenson would not claim entrapment by the informants. He told Preska he intends to argue that his client never took any money and never agreed to any "quid pro quo" with the businessmen.

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