Prominent New York politician's corruption conviction overturned

Editorial Courts make it easier for corrupt politicians to sell office

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in the state Assembly chamber in Albany

In characterizing the actions of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan federal appeals court Thursday borrowed the same terminology, noting that "many" people would view "with distaste" Silver's corrupt actions.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said jury instructions in Silver's case did not reflect the Supreme Court's narrowed meaning of official acts that can support a federal bribery conviction.

Joon Kim, acting US Attorney for the Southern District of NY, said in a statement that he would retry the case, noting the appellate court found that evidence presented at trial was sufficient to prove the crimes against Silver, even under a new legal standard.

Silver, who for two decades was among the most powerful politicians in NY, was convicted in November 2015 of charges including honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion.

Kelly Kramer, a white-collar criminal defense attorney at the Mayer Brown law firm, said that Silver's conviction had always been considered "one of the most vulnerable" after the Supreme Court's decision on McDonnell.

A judge sentenced him to 12-years in prison in May 2016 after a jury on November 30, 2015 found the once-powerful Albany political figure guilty of all eight counts against him.

Along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, he was one of the "three men in a room" with effective power to dictate NY legislative priorities. He represented the 65th Assembly District for decades before being forced to relinquish his position after the conviction.

"The evidence was strong", Preet Bharara, the former USA attorney who brought the case, tweeted Thursday. They have also appealed their convictions. The New York Times, Politico, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) have coverage.

The case against Silver was brought by Bharara, who also brought a number of corruption cases against politicians in Albany.

The appeals court found that the trial judge's jury instructions should have included that definition. The McDonnell decision narrowed the definition of what official conduct can result in a corruption prosecution, according to the newspaper. Federal prosecutors could decide to retry the case.

The U.S. Attorney's Office under Preet Bharara's leadership won its case, and we have every expectation that the people can win again at retrial.

Taub sued Columbia to get his $300,000-a-year job back but was sacked again in April after an appeals court sided with the university. The cases against Silver and Skelos were touted as among his crowning achievements in his office's targeting of elected officials who he said violated the public's trust.

"There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that", Roberts wrote in an unpredictably unanimous decision previous year.

Kim said that although justice will be delayed, prosecutors do not expect justice to be denied. He said, "As I have said, we must respect the judicial process".

Latest News