ALBANY, N.Y. — A state assemblyman facing a Republican primary challenge next week and a fraud trial in Cambodia killed himself Friday, authorities said.
Rochester police said an officer responding to a 911 call saw Assemblyman Bill Nojay die at about 9:30 a.m. from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the city’s Riverside Cemetery.
The 59-year-old attorney and regional radio show host faced a primary Tuesday against Honeoye Falls Mayor Richard Milne. A party official said it’s too late to remove Nojay’s name from the ballot for the seat representing parts of three counties in the greater Rochester and Finger Lakes areas.
“Bill was dedicated to improving New York and communities he served in the Rochester area,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. “He will forever be missed.”
Nojay was critical of the state Legislature, where he had limited influence in the Democrat-dominated Assembly. He claimed too little was being done to help upstate New York. He was also a vocal advocate of gun rights and an opponent of abortion.
“He was a very intelligent individual and very passionate,” said Bill Reilich, Monroe County Republican chairman.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that Nojay and two other men were facing trial in Cambodia on fraud charges, accused of bilking an investor of $1 million in a proposed rice exporting business. He denied fraud was committed.
The newspaper reported that the FBI had been looking into a business deal related to Rochester’s $1.3 billion school modernization program in which Nojay played a role in the formation of a company that won a tentative lucrative contract that was rescinded.
Federal prosecutors in western New York declined to comment. “We are not in a position to release any information at this time,” spokeswoman Barbara Burns said.
If Nojay wins the primary, party chairmen from the three counties will determine the Republican candidate for the general election, Reilich said.
The assemblyman, first elected in 2012, supported Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and had wanted Trump to run for governor of New York, Reilich said.
The Rochester native and his wife had three children, according to his official biography. He received graduate degrees in law and business from Columbia University and was a research fellow at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal.