View Full Version : Sheldon Silver found guilty on all counts in corruption trial

The Bobster
11-30-2015, 02:23 PM

Sheldon Silver found guilty on all counts in corruption trial
By Bruce Golding, Kate Sheehy and Selim Algar
November 30, 2015 | 4:10pm

Ex-New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives at court in Manhattan on Nov. 30. Photo: AP

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted ​on ​all ​seven criminal ​counts Monday in a corruption scheme that traded taxpayer cash and political favors for nearly $4 million in payoffs.

A Manhattan federal jury deliberated less than three days before finding the veteran lawmaker guilty of seven charges of honest-services fraud, extortion and money laundering.

Silver, 71, faces a maximum 1​​30 years in ​prison for the long-running scam.

​The conviction of Silver — for decades one of the three most powerful politicians in the state — was a huge victory for anti-corruption crusading Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

​”Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York,” Bharara said in a statement.​

​Jurors had appeared to be in disarray several times during deliberations, with one demanding to be taken off the panel because she said other members were hassling her over her views, and another claiming a newly discovered conflict of interest earlier Monday..

The second juror, Bronx cabbie Kenneth Graham, 69, told the judge that he only recently learned that he leases his taxi medallion from a man who “associates with Mr. Silver.” The judge refused to excuse him.

“He was guilty, and that’s all,” Graham said of Silver outside court, when asked about the verdict.

“All of [the evidence] was compelling. We come to a conclusion, and he was guilty.”

But Graham indicated that the jury struggled to come up with its verdict.

“It was hard … on the last day and the day before. …There was a lot of hold-outs,” he said.

“I feel relief. Maybe I don’t feel good,” he added.​​

The decision cemented a stunning fall from grace that began when the Manhattan Democrat was busted in January following more than three decades as one of state’s most powerful pols.

His arrest forced Silver to resign his leadership post, but he held onto his longtime Assembly seat.

Under state law, Silver’s conviction automatically boots him from office and bars him from ever again holding any state position.

Monday’s verdict came midway through the corruption trial of Silver’s onetime counterpart in the state Senate, former Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who’s charged in an unrelated influence-peddling scheme along with his son, Adam.

During Silver’s 3˝-week trial, prosecutors presented an array of evidence that included testimony from co-conspirators who turned rat to avoid getting charged in the case.

Columbia University cancer doctor Robert Taub — who got $500,000 in taxpayer-funded research grants from Silver — testified that he steered dozens of asbestos victims to Silver for legal representation by the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm.

Silver, who was “of counsel” at Weitz & Luxenberg at the time, pocketed more than $3 million for delivering the clients.

Veteran Albany lobbyist Brian Meara also testified that he set up a meeting between Silver and an exec at the Glenwood Management development company, which hired another law firm with ties to Silver to handle its lucrative property tax litigation.

Silver — who changed his position on legislation extending real estate tax abatements and blocking stricter rent regulations — got more than $700,000 from the firm of Goldberg & Iryami, with Meara testifying that he was both “surprised and concerned” when Silver revealed the fee-splitting arrangement.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Andrew Goldstein told jurors that Silver was motivated by greed: “This was bribery. This was extortion. This was corruption — the real deal. Don’t let it stand.”

Goldstein also blasted as “preposterous” Silver’s claim that his actions were merely “politics as usual in Albany.”

Defense lawyer Steven Molo insisted that Silver had never engaged in the sort of “quid pro quo” that’s legally required to sustain a conviction for honest-services fraud. :rolleyes:

Molo also accused prosecutors of viewing Silver through a “dirty window,” adding that they had “failed to demonstrate that any harm has occurred.” :rolleyes:

The Bobster
12-01-2015, 07:39 AM

What Silver’s guilty verdict means for the State Assembly
By Kirstan Conley, Bob Fredericks and Carl Campanile
December 1, 2015 | 1:38am

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s political career came to an immediate crashing end with his conviction on Monday.

By law, Silver was automatically expelled from his 65th Assembly District seat upon the Manhattan federal jury’s guilty verdict.

And it took only moments after that for his state government site to be scrubbed of any mention of his nearly 40 years in office, including 21 as speaker.

Assembly staffers also wasted no time taking down his nameplate from his office in the Legislative Office Building as Silver’s aides huddled behind closed doors.

“All counts,” muttered one Silver staffer, incredulously. Others declined to comment.

Another nameplate remained in front of his empty leather seat and wooden desk in the Assembly chambers — about the only sign left in the Capitol of his storied but deeply tarnished career.

“Today, justice was served. Corruption was discovered, investigated and prosecuted, and the jury has spoken,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. “With the allegations proven, it is time for the Legislature to take seriously the need for reform. There will be zero tolerance for the violation of the public trust in New York.”

Cuomo will likely set a date for a special election to fill Silver’s Lower East Side seat, with the 65th District Democratic County Committee taking a leading role in naming a candidate.

Others could challenge the winner of the special election in a September primary, but the party’s candidate would have an edge.

The fate of Silver’s staffers, meanwhile, was not immediately clear, although as state employees, they are not necessarily out the door with their former boss.

Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), who replaced Silver after his January arrest, can decide which staffers stay and which are let go.

Silver’s former top spokesman, Michael Whyland, who was a witness in the federal case against his now ex-boss, was nowhere to be found.

Whyland and several other top Silver staffers had already transferred to Heastie’s team, maintaining their positions.

Others could take other positions with the Assembly or another branch of state government and maintain their seniority.

Meanwhile, reaction poured in from other politicians and good-government groups.

Heastie said he was “deeply saddened” by the news but vowed to work to clean up Albany. “We will continue to work to root out corruption and demand more of elected officials when it comes to ethical conduct,” he said, citing the creation of the Assembly Office of Ethics and Compliance, tougher financial-disclosure requirements, and limits on the use of campaign funds.

The New York Public Interest Research Group said in a statement, “A political earthquake has hit Albany. This is a stinging rebuke to the ‘Albany business as usual’ defense and a clarion call to clean up state ethics.”

Paul Newell, the Democratic district leader in Silver’s downtown district, who is widely viewed as a candidate for the seat, said “Today’s verdict proves it is up to us to reclaim our government.”

The Bobster
12-01-2015, 07:53 AM

Behind Sheldon Silver’s dramatic fall from grace
By Bob Fredericks
December 1, 2015 | 1:03am

Sheldon Silver’s absolute power in the 21 years he ruled the Assembly first showed signs of cracking in 2007, when The Post raised questions about his ties to the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg.

Silver refused to divulge how much he made as “of counsel” attorney for the asbestos-litigation specialists or precisely what he did to earn his salary and fees.

It was that relationship and the quid-pro-quo deals that were spun from it that largely led to his conviction Monday on a spate of federal corruption charges that could land the 71-year-old Silver behind bars for decades.

But before his fall from grace, the Lower East Side native, who never moved out of the old neighborhood, consistently frustrated governors, Big Apple mayors and reform-minded good- government groups with his power plays and mercurial ways.

Silver was first elected to the Assembly from the 65th District in 1976, and was named Assembly speaker in February 1994, following the death of Saul Weprin. He was re-elected speaker 11 times, wielding enormous power as one of the infamous “three men in a room,” along with the governor and state Senate majority leader, who determined the state’s budget and legislative direction.

One of his first major victories was the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1995 — although the courts overturned the law nine years later, after not a single execution.

In 2005, following the murders of two cops, then-Gov. George Pataki pushed for its reinstatement, but by then, Silver no longer supported the death penalty.

In 1999, he spearheaded the drive to repeal New York City’s commuter tax, which levied nonresidents at the same rate as people who lived in the city — a move that infuriated then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani because of the loss of revenue.

He also angered Giuliani’s successor, Mike Bloomberg, when he declined to even schedule a vote on the mayor’s congestion pricing plan.

Bloomberg argued that it would reduce congestion and pollution and raise cash for public transportation. But Silver said it would hurt the little guy.

Silver also foiled Bloomberg’s plan for a Jets stadium in Manhattan.

Perhaps the most controversial episode of Silver’s career before his indictment was his handling of rape accusations against top aide J. Michael Boxley and, later, sexual-harassment allegations against the recently deceased Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic power broker Vito Lopez.

In 2006, Silver and Assembly leaders forked over roughly $500,000 to settle a suit by a Boxley accuser. The state also paid to settle serial harassment charges against Lopez.