Disgraced Bronx Politico Can’t Keep Pension

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A former Bronx assemblyman cannot shield his pension from a $22,000 forfeiture order related to his bribery scheme involving adult day care centers, the Second Circuit ruled on Wednesday.
     Eric Stevenson had only been in office two years when the District 79 Democrat was arrested in 2013 and charged with accepting tens of thousands of dollars from businessmen working with adult day care centers.
     A jury found that Stevenson took the bribes in exchange for sponsoring state legislation that put a moratorium on new centers, putting a squeeze on his benefactors’ competition.
     On appeal of his three-year sentence, Stevenson noted that he was given far harsher punishment than the businessmen convicted of padding his pockets: Igor Belyansky, Slava Belyansky, Igor Tsimerman and David Binman.
     The politician also claimed that the New York State Constitution shielded his pension from forfeiture.
     Stevenson fell from political grace too quickly to become vested in his pension plan, but he had hoped to get his contributions returned.
     The Second Circuit unanimously rejected all aspects of his appeal on Wednesday.
     Writing for the three-judge panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Christopher Droney wrote that U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause means that federal forfeiture law trumps state protections.
     “Articles of the New York Constitution, as state law, are therefore preempted if they are inconsistent with federal law,” the 22-page opinion states.
     Other federal circuits to have reached the same conclusion include the Atlanta, Ga.-based 11th Circuit, the Denver, Colo.-based 10th Circuit, the St. Louis, Mo.-based Eighth Circuit, and the Richmond, Va.-based Fourth Circuit.
     Droney also rejected claims that the trial judge — U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska — made Stevenson’s sentence too high by double-counting his position as a “public official” and an “elected public official.”
     “We conclude that the two enhancements do not serve identical purposes or address the same harm,” the opinion states. “While a betrayal of public trust is a serious matter in an criminal case, it may be considered a greater harm when committed by one who has been elected to office and not simply appointed to a public position.”
     Judges Reena Raggi and Richard Wesley joined the ruling.
     Stevenson’s lawyer has not returned email and telephone requests for comment.
     U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara took to Twitter to celebrate the principle behind the ruling.
     “Convicted politicians should lose pensions paid for by taxpayers they betrayed,” he wrote.

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