BRONX CRIMINAL COURT — Nelson Castro, the former state Assemblyman who worked for years as a secret informant for prosecutors, entered Bronx Criminal Court in handcuffs Wednesday, where felony perjury charges against him from 2009 were unsealed.
After a grand jury indicted Castro that year for lying to the Board of Elections in a proceeding regarding his eligibility to run for the assembly, he struck a deal with federal and Bronx prosecutors to avoid up to seven years in jail, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s office.
In return for prosecutors dropping the charges, Castro agreed to wear secret recording devices while working as a lawmaker. Those recordings led last week to the arrest of state Assemblyman Eric Stevenson on bribery charges — and may still ensnare others.
The unsealed indictment alleges that Castro lied three times during a 2008 hearing before the Board of Elections. He falsely claimed not to know two people or that a third person was on a certain committee, the indictment says.
That hearing stemmed from accusations made by Richard Soto, Castro's opponent in the 86th District assembly race, who sued Castro for election fraud in Bronx Civil Court in 2008 and again in 2010. The 2008 suit alleged that 14 people entered the address of Castro’s one-bedroom apartment on voter registration forms.
“They must have been sleeping on the chandeliers,” Soto’s attorney Stanley Schlein said in an interview Wednesday.
Castro was also involved in two other election fraud schemes not included in the indictment, according to the non-prosecution agreement between the lawmaker, the Bronx DA and the United States Attorney's office.
Before elections in 2008, Castro took part in plots to forge or fraudulently obtain signatures on designating petitions and to register 30 people to vote in the 86th District, even though they did not live there, the agreement says.
Castro pleaded not guilty to the perjury charges at Wednesday’s hearing, which a lawyer said was a matter of procedure and did not signal that Castro’s deal with prosecutors was off.
After being released on his own recognizance, the disgraced lawmaker made a brief statement outside the courthouse.
“I apologize to my constituents who put their faith and trust in me for the last four years,” Castro said, adding that he was proud of his accomplishments during his terms in office.
His attorney, Michael Farkas, added, “If Mr. Castro continues to cooperate, he continues to be honest, continues to do what is expected of him, we expect that the charges will be dismissed.”
Castro formally resigned from office Monday. He is due back in court September 18.