STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY-11) announced late Monday night that he would resign effective Jan. 5 in the wake of pleading guilty to felony tax fraud.
Grimm’s decision is a reversal from his earlier statement that he would “get back to work” after he plead guilty in Brooklyn federal court on Dec. 23. According to news reports, Grimm changed his mind after speaking with Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Monday.
“The events which led to this day did not break my spirit, nor the will of the voters,” Grimm said in a written statement. “However, 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.”
The Republican congressman was indicted in April on 20 counts of misconduct in connection with a Manhattan health food restaurant he co-owned before he became a member of Congress. Grimm specifically plead guilty to aiding the preparation of a false tax return in connection with the restaurant. Trial had been scheduled for February.
Grimm admitted that he had made “off the books” payments to the restaurant’s employees, and that he had under-reported nearly $1 million in gross receipts to the IRS and New York state tax collectors.
Grimm, 44, is a former FBI agent who served as a U.S. Marine, and he campaigned as a law-and-order corruption fighter when he was first elected to Congress in 2010. He won re-election in his district, which includes all of the New York City borough of Staten Island and parts of neighboring Brooklyn, by a wide margin in November despite his federal indictment.
Grimm created controversy earlier this year in January, when he was recorded on camera threatening to throw a reporter off of a balcony and break him “in half, like a boy.” The congressman later apologized.
Grimm could face a maximum prison sentence of three years, followed by a year of supervised release. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8. House rules indicate that that any member convicted of a crime that could lead to two or more years of imprisonment should not participate in committee meetings or vote until winning re-election.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, will call a special election to fill the seat following Grimm’s expected resignation. Party leaders will then meet to determine their candidates. New York state law requires that voting for the special election take place between 70 and 80 days after Cuomo’s announcement.
Republican contenders include Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who has generated controversy for the lack of an indictment of New York City police officers following the death of Eric Garner. Other GOP names mentioned as potential congressional candidates include state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and state Senator Andrew Lanza.
Democratic hopefuls include former U.S. Rep. Michael McMahon, who lost to Grimm in 2010 after serving one term in Congress, and state Assemblyman Michael Cusick, who has a close relationship with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D – NY). President Barack Obama, a Democrat, won 52 percent of the district in 2012.