WASHINGTON - Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) pleaded guilty to one count of felony tax fraud on Tuesday.
Appearing in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, Grimm's lawyers said the lawmaker would plead guilty to the fourth count of a 20-count indictment that federal prosecutors brought against the congressman in April.
Grimm's guilty plea carries with it a maximum sentence of three years in prison, but whether or not he serves jail time will ultimately be decided by the sentencing judge in June.
The congressman's admission of guilt marks the latest development in a long legal saga related to Grimm's ownership stake in Healthalicious, an Upper East Side restaurant.
The 20-count indictment brought against Grimm earlier this year alleged that between 2007 and his election to Congress in 2010, the lawmaker deliberately hid more than $1 million in restaurant sales and hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee wages from the government.
Grimm, who represents Staten Island, initially pleaded not guilty, calling the charges a "political witch hunt" and vowing to fight "tooth and nail" to prove his innocence.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse on Tuesday, Grimm said he had no plans to resign his seat in Congress. "As long as I am able to serve, I will serve." Grimm added that the tax evasion occurred before he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, and said that "for the past four years I've been a strong and effective member of Congress.”
But as Grimm dug in his heels, calls for his resignation were already coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to demand that Grimm step down. “Now that the election is over, Congressman Grimm is finally admitting the truth to his constituents,” Pelosi said. “Clearly, Speaker Boehner must insist that Congressman Grimm resign immediately.”
The speaker cannot force Grimm to step down, since even as a convicted felon, Grimm is not expressly prohibited from serving in Congress. Still, as the leader of the House GOP caucus, Boehner can make it very uncomfortable for Grimm to remain in office. Many political observers predicted before Grimm's announcement that the speaker would pressure him to resign.
Boehner has yet to indicate whether he plans to insist that Grimm step down. Grimm told reporters in New York Tuesday that he has been in touch with members of House leadership, but declined to elaborate.
Grimm's tenure in Congress has been marked by a series of controversies, including an incident in January in which Grimm threatened to throw a reporter off the balcony of the U.S. Capitol after the reporter asked him about alleged campaign finance violations.