Seth Wenig/AP Photo
Rep. Michael Grimm pleaded guilty today to a felony tax charge in arguably the highest-profile public corruption case in New York in decades, and the pressure is mounting on the New York Republican to resign from office.
Grimm pleaded guilty to a single count of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return in 2009 in a Brooklyn federal court today. He also agreed to pay an undetermined amount of restitution to the IRS and New York State on tax returns dating from 2007 to 2010. Grimm faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison and is set to be sentenced on June 8. Judge Pamela K. Chen presided over today’s plea hearing.
Grimm arrived in the courtroom shortly after 1 p.m. surrounded by a mob of photographers and reporters. A string of FBI agents including Rich Frankel, the head of the criminal division of the New York field office, lined the back row of spectators.
Asked by the judge whether he understood the criminal charge that he was pleading guilty to, Grimm replied, “Yes, your honor.”
Last month, the House Ethics Committee again deferred consideration of Grimm’s alleged violations of campaign finance law to the Department of Justice. Grimm pleaded not guilty to a 20-count indictment last April stemming from allegations of fraud and misconduct tied to a New York restaurant he co-owned before taking office.
Grimm is also alleged to have solicited and accepted prohibited campaign contributions, caused false information to be included in campaign finance reports and allegedly made a deal with a foreign national to collect campaign contributions in exchange for help getting a green card.
Grimm holds a unique position in Congress: He is the only member of the House majority to represent New York City. But he also is a fairly typical species in Big Apple politics — a ranking elected official hauled into criminal court by the FBI. In the last five years, the city has seen an embarrassing parade of pols arrested, capped off by a bipartisan plot to try and rig the GOP nomination for mayor.
Plea negotiations had dragged on for months. Sources indicated the case against Grimm was “solid” but “not good for the bureau” given Grimm’s history as a former FBI agent.
Grimm’s spokesman and chief of staff did not immediately return requests by ABC News for comment. The FBI’s New York office also declined comment.
Even before the court appearance, Democrats seized on the expected admission of guilt, calling on Grimm to resign from his seat in the House of Representatives.
“Now that the election is over, Congressman Grimm is finally admitting the truth to his constituents,” sniped House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, in a written statement. “Clearly, Speaker Boehner must insist that Congressman Grimm resign immediately.”
House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel said Boehner “won’t have any announcements until the Speaker discusses the matter with Mr. Grimm.”
Members of Congress do not automatically forfeit their office upon conviction of a felony.
It’s unclear whether Grimm will resign. At an Oct. 16 debate, when asked by the moderator whether he would resign if found guilty, Grimm said, “If I was not able to serve then, of course, I would step aside.”
The two-term congressman gained national notoriety after he threatened to throw NY1/Time Warner Cable News reporter Michael Scotto off the Cannon Rotunda balcony following the president’s State of the Union address last January. Scotto was also in the courtroom today, seated in the front row.
ABC News’ Mike Levine contributed to this report.
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