PHOTO: Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was found guilty on Monday of federal corruption charges. Photo Courtesy of Flickr/MMR Dad
Disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver now faces dozens of years in prison after his federal corruption trial ended Monday evening in Manhattan with his being found guilty on all seven counts of fraud and extortion.
The maximum penalty for six of the seven charges is 20 years.
Silver, 71, was arrested in January following a federal corruption probe charging one of Albany’s “Three Men in a Room” with allegedly using his official position to receive nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks from people and businesses in exchange for his official acts.
“Today, Sheldon Silver got justice,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, “and at long last, so did the people of New York.”
Bharara’s brief statement on Monday was in stark contrast to the announcement of the criminal complaint in January.
“As today’s charges make clear, the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain,” Bharara said earlier this year. “And as the charges also show, the greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced with particular cleverness and cynicism by the Speaker himself. Among other things, we allege that Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, was on retainer to a mammoth real estate developer at the very same time that the chamber he dominates was considering and passing legislation vitally affecting the bottom line of that developer; at the very same time that he was hearing out lobbyists paid by that developer and at the very same time that he was deliberately keeping secret from the public any information about this lucrative side-deal, in violation of the law.
“Politicians are supposed to be on the people’s payroll, not on secret retainer to wealthy special interests they do favors for,” he added. “These charges go to the very core of what ails Albany—a lack of transparency, lack of accountability, and lack of principle joined with an overabundance of greed, cronyism, and self-dealing.”
According to the allegations contained in the complaint, Silver used this substantial power – including, in particular, his power over the real estate industry and his control over certain health care funding – to unlawfully enrich himself by soliciting and obtaining client referrals worth millions of dollars from people and entities in exchange for his official acts, and attempting to disguise this money as legitimate outside income earned from his work as a private lawyer.
In particular, Silver claimed on financial disclosure forms required to be filed with the state, and in public statements, that the millions of dollars he received in outside income while also serving as Speaker of the Assembly came from Manhattan-based law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., where Silver professed to work “representing individual clients” in “personal injury actions.” These claims, according to the complaint, were materially false and misleading – and made to cover up unlawful payments Silver received solely due to his power and influence as an elected legislator and the Speaker of the Assembly.
The scheme, as the complaint alleged, provided Silver with different streams of unlawful income.
By Michael V. Cusenza email@example.com