Disgraced former Assembly Speaker Silver on Friday was found guilty of extortion and honest services fraud.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
Disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Friday was convicted—again—of seven counts of fraud and extortion in a Manhattan federal court.
“The justice system shows no one is above the law,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a brusque statement shortly after the verdict was read.
Silver was originally found guilty in November 2015 and sentenced to 12 years in prison (and ordered to pay a $1.75 million fine and forfeit $5.3 million) the following May. However, in July 2017, an appeals court overturned the conviction due to improper jury instructions.
Silver’s precipitous drop from the apex of the Albany machine began in January 2015, when he was arrested following a federal corruption probe charging one of the State Legislature’s “Three Men in a Room” with using his position to receive nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks from people and businesses in exchange for his official acts, and obtaining another $1 million through laundering the proceeds of his crimes.
According to federal authorities, Silver, 74, was convicted of using his substantial power – including his influence over the real estate industry and his control over certain healthcare funding – to unlawfully enrich himself by soliciting and obtaining client referrals worth millions of dollars from people and entities in exchange for official acts, and attempting to disguise the 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 came from Manhattan-based law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., where Silver professed to work “representing individual clients” in “personal injury actions.” These claims, prosecutors charged, were materially false and misleading – and made to cover up unlawful payments Silver received solely due to his clout as an elected official and the Speaker.
“I commend the career prosecutors of our office’s Public Corruption Unit, whose determination in securing this important conviction fittingly underscores the importance of pursuing cases against corrupt politicians, no matter the difficulty,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoff Berman. “One of the most worthy endeavors of this office is combating public corruption. We will continue to do so with the independence and resolve the Southern District is known for and the citizens of New York so rightly deserve.”
Berman was not in charge when Silver was initially arrested, indicted, tried, and convicted.
“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption,” former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in 2016 when Silver was hit with a dozen years. “The show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain…the greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced with particular cleverness and cynicism by the Speaker himself.”
Silver is currently out on bail. Sentencing has been scheduled for July 13.