Congressman and tax cheat Michael Grimm will resign from office on Jan. 5.
The announcement came less than a week after the Bay Ridge legislator pleaded guilty on Dec. 23 to one count of tax evasion and confessed to a list of other crimes laid out in a 20-count indictment related to a restaurant he owned before taking office.
“After much thought and prayer, I have made the very difficult decision to step down from Congress effective January 5, 2015,” Grimm said in a statement.
The move is a dramatic about-face for the former Marine and Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, who defiantly vowed to remain in office on the day of his felony plea.
Grimm, who also represents bucolic Staten Island, faced possible expulsion from Congress, and a post-plea meeting with House Speaker John Boehner convinced him that his felony charge and potential jail time would hamstring him in Washington, according to a New York Daily News report. A congressional rule would have stripped him of his ability to vote on the House floor.
“I do not believe that I can continue to be 100 percent effective in the next Congress, and therefore, out of respect for the office and the people I so proudly represent, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life,” Grimm said in the statement.
Grimm had been a rising star in the Republican Party, elected in 2010 with no political experience amid a nationwide wave of Republican gains. He was reelected in November despite the looming indictment, trouncing gaffe-prone former Brooklyn councilman Domenic Recchia. He ultimately pleaded guilty to filing a fraudulent 2009 tax return for Healthalicious, the Manhattan health-food restaurant he owned. His plea deal also acknowledged that investigators had evidence to prove that he dodged a tax bill of between $50,000 and $200,000 and perjured himself during a 2013 civil deposition, according to prosecutor Loretta Lynch.
“In addition to pleading guilty to causing the filing of a false tax return for his restaurant, Grimm has signed a statement admitting to the conduct underlying every charge filed against him,” Lynch said in a Dec. 23 statement.
Lynch is President Obama’s pick to replace Attorney General Eric Holder.
Grimm’s sentencing is set for June 8, 2015. He faces as many as three years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo could call a special election to fill Grimm’s vacant seat. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Staten Island’s top prosecutor expressed interest in Grimm’s seat on Tuesday morning.
“I am deeply flattered by the enthusiastic expressions of support I have received over the last 12 hours, and I am very seriously considering the race,” said Richmond County District Attorney Dan Donovan. “I will make an announcement after the due deliberation such an important decision deserves.”
Donovan would be a contentious choice because he recently failed to secure an indictment against Officer Daniel Panteleo for killing Gowanus native Eric Garner by choking him and holding him face-down when Garner objected to being stopped. Donovan faced criticism for not pursuing a reckless endangerment charge in Garner’s death, and the grand jury’s non-indictment on more serious charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide sparked weeks of protests citywide. Though Donovan has not announced his candidacy, he has already secured the endorsement of the Captain’s Endowment Association police union, Buzzfeed News reported.
Sources say Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge) is also eyeing the seat, and that Democrat Michael McMahon, who represented the district before Grimm unseated him in 2010, is discussing a possible run with his family.