Guilty! A 20th of the way, anyhow.
Rep. Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge) pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud in federal court on Tuesday afternoon. The charge carries a penalty of as much as three years in prison.
Grimm had been facing a 20-count indictment for alleged tax, insurance, and immigration fraud during his time as co-owner of a Manhattan health-food restaurant before taking office. The indictment included the allegation that Grimm hid more than $1 million in sales at the restaurant, Healthalicious, from the tax man.
In a brief press conference outside the courthouse, Grimm said he is trying to move on from being a tax cheat.
“If you do something wrong, you can never fully get past it until you accept full responsibility for it and that’s what I’m doing,” he said. “Although this was a little restaurant, I made some big mistakes.”
Grimm bested Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia in November despite the looming charges, and said during an October debate that he would step down from office if he was “unable to serve.” He reiterated the phrase outside the courthouse on Tuesday.
“As I said before, as long as I’m able to serve, I will serve,” he said.
His sentencing is set for June 8, 2015.
The pol, a former FBI agent who once went undercover as a crooked stockbroker named “Mikey Suits,” has been embattled since 2012, when the FBI charged an ally with campaign fund-raising shenanigans. Two involved in various shady fund-raising schemes have since pleaded guilty, but Grimm has professed to know nothing about the funny money. In January of this year, three months before his formal indictment, Grimm threatened an NY1 reporter asking about the investigation into his management of Healthalicious, saying he would break him “in half — like a boy.”
Grimm, who also represents the rugged lands of Shaolin, commonly referred to as Staten Island, dismissed the pall surrounding his time in office by saying that it has been created by political foes.
“For the past four years I’ve been a very effective, strong member of Congress who has served the people of Staten Island,” he said. “I know some are going to use this for political purposes like they did for the past three years.”
If Grimm remains free, he could continue to hold office. In such a scenario, it would be up to his congressional colleagues to expel, censure, or fine him. He could also be stripped of his ability to vote in Congress, but remain in office.
Congress has only expelled five members in its history, including three during the Civil War for “disloyalty to the Union.”
U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, now President Obama’s pick for attorney general, is overseeing the case against Grimm. A lone protester who a judge tossed from the courtroom for holding a sign reading “Grimminal” said that the plea deal is a bum deal for New Yorkers.
“The prosecution had all the cards and they gave the game away,” said Staten Island resident Mike May. “Justice was not served.”
May said Grimm will be busy with legal problems and unable to work effectively for the people that elected him. Plus, he added, Grimm is only ever looking out for number one.
“Not only can he not do the people’s work, he is not interested in doing the people’s work,” he said.