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Assemb. Eric Stevenson guilty of bribery, extortion

State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson exits the Court for

State Assemblyman Eric Stevenson exits the Court for the Southern District of New York after being declared guilty of taking bribes. (Jan. 13, 2014) Credit: Agaton Strom

A federal jury deliberated for barely 90 minutes Monday before convicting Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson of taking $20,000 in bribes to help Russian businessmen in their efforts to open adult day care centers.

Stevenson, 47, a two-term Democrat, faces up to 55 years in prison when he is sentenced May 20 by Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, who presided over the weeklong trial in federal court in Manhattan.

"I don't want to respond at this time," Stevenson said as he left court. "I don't feel down."

Jurors could not be contacted after delivering their verdict shortly after 5 p.m. They had gotten the case at 3:30 p.m. following legal instructions from the judge and closing arguments from the defense and prosecuting attorneys.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Kreiger said in his summation that Stevenson "betrayed his constituents. He violated his oath of office and he broke the law."

Stevenson even introduced legislation that would have created a moratorium on new adult day care centers in the city, which would have doubled or tripled the value of the Russians' new businesses, Kreiger said.

Stevenson's defense attorney, Muhammad Bashir, countered in this closing statement that prosecutors failed to prove Stevenson took the bribes, and suggested that a government informant, Sigfredo Gonzalez, had pocketed the money.

The assemblyman, who faces the loss of his seat because of the conviction, was found guilty on one count of honest services fraud, two counts of bribery and one count of extortion.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bhara said in a statement: "A unanimous jury swiftly found, Assemblyman Stevenson brazenly betrayed the public that elected him. Graft and greed are intolerable in Albany, and we will go to trial as often as we have to until government in New York is cleaned up."

Stevenson's conviction is the latest in a string of state lawmakers from the five boroughs to be convicted or charged with corruption.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens was indicted in April on charges of plotting to bribe Republican Party leaders in New York City for their permission to run for mayor as a Republican.

State Sen. John Sampson of Brooklyn, also a Democrat, was accused in a May indictment of embezzling $440,000 to finance a run for Brooklyn district attorney and recruiting a mole in the U.S. attorney's office to scuttle a federal investigation.

Former Queens State Sen. Shirley Huntley was sentenced in May to a year and a day in jail for embezzling money from a nonprofit.

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