Hochul: Benjamin arrest was truly a surprise

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ALBANY – Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday she was "personally disappointed" by Brian Benjamin’s arrest on federal corruption charges the previous day.

Hochul promised to "get it right" the next time she selects her lieutenant governor.

In addition, Hochul insists she had no idea there was an ongoing federal investigation of Benjamin at the time she tabbed him to be her second in command last September. The governor added it appears Benjamin provided erroneous or misleading answers during his vetting process.

Hochul was sworn into office on August 24, 2021. She appointed Benjamin a few weeks later.

What she didn’t know, and what the U.S. Attorney and the FBI apparently didn’t tell her, was that they had been building a criminal case against Benjamin whereby he arranged a $50,000 state grant for a Harlem real estate investor who in return was supposed to deposit some of that money into his election campaign account.

Benjamin pled not guilty to a five-count indictment on Tuesday. Hochul accepted his resignation later in the day.

The governor addressed the situation live on New York City public radio station WNYC Wednesday, as part of "The Brian Lehrer Show."

"It’s an opportunity for us to reset and to let people know that it was very unfortunate, very disappointing for me personally how this played out," Hochul stated. "But you know what? We live to see another day. This is the next day. I’m focused on the subway issue, the shooting. I’m focused on delivering the message that we can accomplish in our budget, letting people all over the state know what we’ve done for them, and I will not be deterred."

Regarding a replacement for Benjamin, Hochul says it’s still early in the process and there are many people to consider.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will serve as interim lieutenant governor.