An emotional former New York state Sen. Carl Kruger pleaded guilty Tuesday to criminal charges in an influence peddling case, admitting that he accepted nearly a half-million dollars in bribes from a variety of business people.
Kruger, 62, of Brooklyn pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery. He agreed not to appeal any prison sentence up to 11 years and three months when he is sentenced on April 26. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff reminded him that he is free to sentence him to up to 50 years in prison, the maximum that the charges carry.
Earlier Tuesday, he resigned from the state Senate seat he has held since 1994.
The plea, delivered by Kruger in a muffled voice as he wept, came a month before his scheduled trial on charges that he accepted more than $1 million in bribes to use his position as a state senator to benefit a lobbyist as opportunities arose.
Kruger repeatedly wiped tears from his eyes as he read the statement describing how he accepted bribes from 2007 through last March.
"I accept responsibility for my actions and apologize for my conduct," he said.
Rakoff asked him: "In short, you agreed to take bribes from those various individuals?"
"Yes, your honor," Kruger answered.
His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement issued outside the courthouse that he hoped the judge will take into account Kruger's good deeds as well as his decision to accept responsibility for his crimes. Brafman said his client's good work, while "obviously flawed, is still nevertheless on balance, quite extraordinary."
Kruger, a Democrat, was the powerful Senate Finance Committee chairman from 2008 to 2010, when Democrats controlled the Senate.
Immediately after Kruger's plea, the judge accepted a plea from Michael Turano, a Manhattan-based gynecologist who admitted that he deposited checks related to the bribery scheme into bank accounts for the benefit of Kruger.
Turano, 50, of Brooklyn faces up to five years in prison. The government said Kruger had a close relationship with Turano and was effectively a member of his family.
Each of the men also agreed as part of their plea deals to forfeit up to $450,000.
When Kruger was arrested earlier this year, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the case resulted from an "unholy alliance of politicians, lobbyists and businessmen."
After the plea, Bharara noted in a statement that Kruger once "stood near the apex of political power in New York State."
He added: "Instead of serving the people who elected him, Senator Kruger monetized his public office and served himself."