Rep. Mario Biaggi, D-N.Y., convicted twice for corruption, said Friday he was resigning from Congress immediately and would not seek re-election for the seat he has held for 20 years.
In a brief statement issued moments before a late afternoon news conference, Biaggi said he he had no regrets and would devote all of his time to fighting the convictions."I will therefore be unable to serve the needs and interests of my consistuents to the degree that they deserve," the statement said. "Furthermore, in light of these all-consuming legal battles I must continue to fight, I am withdrawing as a candidate for re-election to an 11th term in Congress.
Biaggi's resignation came at his Bronx headquarters, a storefront office crammed with newsmen and photographers.
Biaggi, 70, was found guilty in Manhattan federal court of extorting $3.6 million in stock from Wedtech Corp. in exchange for helping the South Bronx machine shop obtain lucrative Pentagon defense contracts. Biaggi's son and four co-defendants also were convicted of various charges in the scheme.
Biaggi 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.
Biaggi has been banned from voting in Congress because of his federal court conviction last September for obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities. On Sept. 7, the House was to debate an ethics committee recommendation that Biaggi be expelled from Congress.
"I admit I leave with sadness, but with no regrets. I will look back with satisfaction, but I also look forward with hope and optimism," the statement said.
"I hope that with passage of time, people will look back and say he really cared and nothing can or will take away all of the good he has done."
House Democratic leader Thomas Foley of Washington announced the expulsion debate but left open the possibility that no action would be taken if Biaggi resigned before that date.
A federal appeals court Monday upheld Biaggi's conviction and 30-month sentence in that case but Biaggi vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The state Board of Elections Thursday rejected political opponents' efforts to strip Biaggi's name from the November ballot, allowing him to proceed with his bid for an 11th term in office.
U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani called the Wedtech investigation "one of the most comprehensive and revealing" corruption probes ever. Giuliani had called on Congress to expel Biaggi.
"It has revealed corruption implicating the Congress and the executive branch of the federal and the local government here and elsewhere," he said.
Biaggi's campaign treasury has been depleted by his vast legal expenses, insiders said.
Biaggi also has heart problems and felt a sharp pain in his chest after Thursday's verdict, officials said. His family said he is scheduled for tests and is under a doctor's care.
The jury found Biaggi guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, extortion, bribe taking, mail fraud, illegal receipt of a gratuity and income tax evasion. His lawyer, James LaRossa, said he will appeal.