Reports: Indicted Congressman Expected to Plead Guilty to Tax Evasion
Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., is expected to plead guilty in court to at least one of the 20 felony counts lodged against him, local news outlets reported Monday.
CQ Roll Call did not immediately hear back from Grimm spokesmen or attorneys for confirmation, with one of his lawyers, Miami-based Daniel Rashbaum, saying, “We have no comment at this time.” But official court filings show that a 1 p.m. plea agreement hearing has been scheduled in New York for Tuesday. Typically, such a hearing would not occur unless the defendant were prepared to enter into a plea agreement.
The New York Daily News first reported that Grimm is likely to take responsibility for tax evasion, one of the myriad charges in the indictment filed in late-April by Loretta Lynch , the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York (she is now President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general).
The charges relate to the health food store Grimm owned and operated prior to his election to Congress in 2010. The 20 counts include impeding the IRS, conspiracy to defraud the United States, filing false tax returns, mail fraud, wire fraud, health care fraud and the hiring of undocumented immigrants, along with lying under oath.
Grimm has maintained his innocence throughout, and his House GOP colleagues have given him the benefit of the doubt .
Republican leaders applauded Grimm’s decision after being handed the indictment to give up his seat on the Financial Services Committee. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and his top lieutenants all said publicly that Grimm would have his day in court, and until then he could serve in office. His trial was due to begin in February 2015.
The two-term lawmaker also scored points on the campaign trail with promises to resign if found formally guilty of criminal charges.
“If things don’t go my way, right? And I had to step down in January, then there will be a special election, and at least the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn can then have qualified candidates to choose from,” Grimm said in a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera.
It’s not currently clear whether Grimm would still try to stay in office despite the campaign pledge, or if House GOP leaders would finally force the congressman off.
If Grimm does give up his seat in Congress — by force, choice or imprisonment — the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would have to work fast to recruit a viable candidate to run for Grimm’s seat in a special election.
Democrats are still bruised after the 2014 cycle, when their candidate had so many weak spots he was ultimately unable to prevail against an indicted incumbent who earlier in the year had threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony.
Democrats are working to recruit former Rep. Michael E. McMahon, D-N.Y., whom Grimm defeated by a 3-point margin in the GOP wave of 2010.
To run on the GOP ticket, two New York Republicans are being floated as possible recruits: state Sen. Andrew Lanza and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.
According to state law, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has full discretion whether to call a special election at all. Nominees would be decided by party leaders in each county within the congressional district, who get a weighted vote to determine their candidate.