Witness in political scandal faces charges

Nelson Castro is pictured inside a car outside

Nelson Castro is pictured inside a car outside his apartment. (April 5, 2013) (Credit: New York Daily News / Marcus Santos)

A former Bronx state assemblyman, a crucial witness in a political corruption scandal, faced his own music Wednesday when 4-year-old perjury charges against him were unsealed.

Nelson Castro faces three perjury charges stemming from his August 2008 sworn testimony before a hearing of the New York City Board of Elections concerning his eligibility for placement on the ballot in a primary election for the 86th Assembly District. The perjury allegedly related to Castro's answers to questions where he denied knowing people investigators said in fact he did know.

Castro pleaded not guilty. His attorney said the charges would be dismissed because of his cooperation with the latest investigation.

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It was because of the alleged perjury that Castro was pressured to cooperate with the Bronx district attorney's office and the Manhattan U.S. attorneys in building a case that led to the indictment last week of Bronx state Assemb. Eric Stevenson and four others, court records show.

The perjury charges add a wrinkle to the Stevenson case because they are crimes for which Castro, should he have to testify as a witness, could see his credibility attacked.

Murray Richman, Stevenson's attorney, said the use of Castro as an undercover operative "raises the question of whether the witness was used as an agent provocateur" against Stevenson. The charges against Stevenson accuse him of accepting more than $20,000 in bribes from Bronx adult day care operators to draft legislation to help create a three-year window of exclusive operation for them. The bribes allegedly passed from the businessmen to Stevenson and Castro, the indictment stated.

Outside the courtroom of Acting State Supreme Court Judge Steven Barrett, Castro, who quit his job as an assemblyman Monday, read a statement in which apologized to his constituents and accepted responsibility for his actions.

"I make no excuses for the misconduct that I committed before I was in office," Castro said in the prepared remarks.

Defense attorney Michael C. Farkas referred all questions to the U.S. attorney and Bronx district attorney's office. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.

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