How to Buy a Bill in New York Politics: Steak, Envelopes of Cash, and Death Threats

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Photo: Danilo Calilung/Corbis

Details of the recordings that got Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson arrested in New York's second major bribery scheme of the week are straight out of the screenplay for a generic political thriller. Setting: A steakhouse, two days after Christmas. Low light, shifty eyes. "Are Igor and them putting together a nice little package for me, huh?" Stevenson asked of his co-conspirators, the developers of adult day care centers. Hoping to avoid the security cameras, the politician stepped outside the restaurant before shoving an envelope stuffed with $10,000 into his pants.

The whole thing was being taped from across the street. Paired with wiretap of phone calls, and cooperation from fellow Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who admitted yesterday he's been an informant since 2009, the federal complaint against Stevenson is quite detailed.

"Bottom line," he said, "if half the people up here in Albany were ever caught for what they do ... they ... would probably be [in jail]," he said on that December night. "So who are they bullshitting?" He knew the consequences, but wasn't very concerned:

“Look at this guy [former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, he] got off on appeal and never went back. They had him for a million,” he said during the same conversation.

“Look at [former state Sen. Carl] Kruger . . . They got him in the easiest federal penitentiary you could ever be in.”

He had a lot of examples to choose from, and so it's no wonder he was suspicious someone might be recording their conversations. But he threw in a threat for good measure: "Stevenson expressed concern that 'they bring me down' and said that if that happened, 'somebody's going to the cemetery.'"