A state lawmaker from the Hudson Valley has been charged with marijuana possession after a traffic stop Thursday on the New York State Thruway, police said.
Assemb. Steve Katz (R-Mohegan Lake) was driving north about 10 a.m. in the Town of Coeymans, at the southern end of Albany County, when he was pulled over by a trooper concerned about speeding, State Thruway Police at Albany spokeswoman Darcy Wells said. Katz was alone in the car, driving 80 mph in a 65 mph zone, Wells said.
The Assembly was in session Thursday morning.
The trooper smelled an odor of marijuana coming from the car and found Katz in possession of a small bag containing less than 25 grams of pot, Wells said.
There was no sign of erratic driving other than the speeding, and Wells said she is unaware of any previous encounters between Katz and state troopers.
The 59-year-old Katz was charged with two violations, unlawful possession of marijuana and speeding. He was released on an appearance ticket and will appear in Coeymans Town Court on March 28.
Katz did not return calls seeking comment. On Friday afternoon, he issued a statement.
"In light of the unfortunate incident that occurred, I am compelled to address it briefly," he said in the statement. "First, I will not let this incident impede my public service and my calls for real mandate relief, a better economic climate and better services for those in need in New York."
The statement concluded, "This should not overshadow the work I have done over the years for the public and my constituency. I am confident that once the facts are presented that this will quickly be put to rest."
Katz, a veterinarian, was elected in 2010. He represents the 94th Assembly District, which covers the towns of Yorktown and Somers in northern Westchester County and Patterson, Southeast, Carmel and Putnam Valley in Putnam County.
He sits on five Assembly committees, including Higher Education, Mental Health and Alcoholism & Drug Abuse.
An outspoken conservative, he won re-election in November over Democrat Andrew Falk of Carmel, having prevailed in a bruising GOP primary in September against Putnam Valley's Dario Gristina. Recently, he has been a vocal critic of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's gun-control law, saying the Legislature was "bullied" by a governor obsessed with his own political career.
In September, he called on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to resign in the wake of Silver's secretive payments to settle sexual harassment allegations against Assemb. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn).
"Mr. Silver's moral myopia in this sexual harassment matter is an insult to every levelheaded voter -- regardless of gender," Katz said at the time.
In July, Katz drew heat from gun control advocates for a $200-a-plate fundraiser, dubbed "cocktails, dinner and guns," at Carmel's Paladin Center, where guests were offered the chance to fire "simulated" AK-47 assault rifles. The event was held shortly after the Aurora, Colo., movie theater massacre in which 12 people were killed and 70 wounded. Katz defended the event, saying it had "nothing to do with anything that happened in Colorado."
At the time, the assemblyman's political rivals were criticizing Katz after his wife posted a Facebook photo of herself wearing a big grin, a cowboy hat and a U.S. flag tank top while holding a shotgun.
With Nik Bonopartis, Christian Wade, Yancey Roy and The Associated Press