Rep. Mario Biaggi (D-N.Y.), weeping and shaking with emotion, resigned from Congress today and said he will abandon his reelection campaign to fight his two convictions for corruption.
He insisted he had never taken a bribe--"not a single penny."
"I must continue to fight. I am withdrawing as a candidate for reelection to an 11th term in Congress," Biaggi told newsmen and photographers crammed into his Bronx headquarters.
Biaggi, 70, was found guilty Thursday in federal court of extorting $3.6 million in stock from Wedtech Corp. in exchange for helping the South Bronx defense firm obtain lucrative Pentagon contracts.
He faces a maximum of 146 years in prison and a fine of $7.4 million at his sentencing Nov. 18. He also must forfeit $350,000 in ill-gotten profits.
With his wife, Maria, sitting stoically beside him, and surrounded by walls decorated with his commendations as a former New York police officer and 20-year congressman, Biaggi began reading his resignation statement strongly, but he slowly became consumed with emotion.
'Put Constituents First'
"Throughout my 20 years in Congress, I have always tried to put the interests of my constituents first," he said.
"It is because of this that I announce my resignation from the House of Representatives effective immediately.
"I admit I leave with sadness, but with no regrets," Biaggi said, beginning to cry as members of his staff wept with him. "I will look back with satisfaction, but I also look forward with hope and optimism."
He dismissed a prosecutor's depiction of him as a "thug in a congressman's suit."
"Name-calling is easy, you get it at every level of the gutter," he said. "I will not engage in it."
Asked if he had ever taken a bribe, Biaggi said: "Absolutely not. Not a single penny, gift, trip, nor a share of stock. and I've said this time and time again."
Banned From Voting
Biaggi has been banned from voting in Congress because of his federal court conviction last September for obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities.
The House had scheduled a debate Sept. 7 on an Ethics Committee recommendation that Biaggi be expelled from Congress.
Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.), who served alongside Biaggi in the House for 12 years, today called his fellow congressman's resignation "a really sad tragic end to a long public career."