Congressman and tax cheat Michael Grimm will resign from office on Jan. 5.
The announcement came less than a week after the 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, who defiantly vowed to remain in office on the day of his felony plea.
Grimm (R–Bay Ridge), who also represents bucolic Staten Island, faced possible expulsion from Congress regardless, 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 reports.
“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.
The former Republican rising star, elected in 2010, pled guilty to filing a fraudulent 2009 tax return for a Manhattan restaurant he owned. But his plea deal also acknowledged that investigators had evidence to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he dodged a tax bill between $50,000 and $200,000 and perjured himself, according 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,” she said in a Dec. 23 statement.
A judge will begin sentencing Grimm on June 8, 2015 for the felony conviction, for which he could serve as much as three years in prison and could pay a maximum fine of $100,000.
Despite the 20-count indictment hanging over his head during his reelection campaign, Grimm won a landslide in November against gaffe-prone former Brooklyn councilman Domenic Recchia.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo could call a special election to fill Grimm’s vacant seat, but the Governor did not return a request for comment.
Staten Island’s chief 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 could be a contentious choice, because he urged a Richmond County grand jury not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island man Eric Garner’s July 17 homicide.
Sources say Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge) is also eyeing the seat, and Democrat Michael McMahon, who represented the district before Grimm unseated him in 2010, indicated his interest to the New York Observer.