Former NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver found guilty of fraud and extortion
Sheldon Silver, one of New York’s most powerful politicians for two decades, was convicted on Monday of abusing his office to collect as much as $4 million in illegal bribes and kickbacks.
A federal jury in Manhattan found Silver, 71, guilty of all seven counts he faced following a three-week trial, including fraud, extortion and money laundering.
The verdict caps a stunning fall for Silver, who as speaker of the state Assembly enjoyed immense political influence before his arrest in January.
Together with the governor and the state Senate majority leader, he was one of the so-called “three men in a room” who control virtually all legislation under New York’s governance system.
The conviction comes as Silver’s counterpart in the Senate, former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, faces his own corruption trial in the same federal court.
Both men resigned their leadership posts after their arrests but continue to work as lawmakers representing Manhattan’s East Side and Long Island, respectively. Silver will automatically lose his seat as a result of his conviction.
The verdict also represents a major victory for Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, whose office brought both the Silver and Skelos cases amid a broader probe into corruption in the state capital of Albany.
“Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York,” Bharara, who was in court to hear the verdict, said in a statement.
One of Silver’s defense lawyers, Steven Molo, said, “We’re obviously disappointed in the verdict, and we intend to file vigorous post-trial motions to set it aside.”
The Silver and Skelos cases are the highest-profile in a string of prosecutions and ethics scandals that have forced dozens of state lawmakers from office in recent years.
Prosecutors said Silver traded $500,000 in secret state grant money to a cancer researcher, Robert Taub, who in turn referred his asbestos patients to Silver’s law firm. The firm then paid Silver millions of dollars in referral fees and settlement proceeds.
Silver was also charged with steering developers to another law firm in exchange for kickbacks and then working to weaken rent control legislation to benefit the developers, all while hiding his profits from public disclosure.
Silver’s lawyers had accused Bharara of overreaching, taking the deal-making and favor-trading that comprises politics as usual in Albany and trying to twist it into criminal behavior.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)