Corruption Conviction Overturned for Ex-NY Assembly Speaker

14 July, 2017, 00:34 | Author: Ora Austin
  • Conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver overturned

Sheldon Silver, the former New York State Assembly Speaker found guilty of corruption charges in 2015, has won an appeal in federal court to overturn the conviction.

In its decision to vacate Silver's conviction, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan pointed to a June 2016 Supreme Court decision to overturn the bribery conviction of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell.

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Silver had obtained payments in return for actions taken on behalf of a prominent cancer researcher, Dr. Robert N. Taub of Columbia University, and two real estate developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group.

The reversal of Sheldon Silver's fraud and extortion conviction exposes major flaws in state and federal anti-corruption laws which can allow actions the public would consider obviously wrong to go unpunished, critics and lawmakers said Thursday.

He was forced to vacate the Assembly seat he'd held for nearly 40 years, and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. He represented the 65th Assembly District for decades before being forced to relinquish his position after the conviction.

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Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was in charge when Silver was convicted and sentenced, wrote on Twitter that the evidence was "strong", and the Supreme Court had "changed the law". They have also appealed their convictions. But he remained free on bail, while the panel of judges considered his appeal based on the US Supreme Court's decision in McDonnell v. Indeed, the court said the definition of "official act" that jurors received at the Silver trial was way too broad, since it encompassed "any action taken or to be taken under color of official authority".

The key government witness who helped bring down Sheldon Silver is hoping the disgraced pol's overturned conviction will help him get his own job back. In the McDonnell case, the Supreme Court said that official act "must involve a formal exercise of governmental power, and must also be something specific" - effectively raising the bar on what constitutes corruption.

Bharara shared his opinion about the Silver case on Twitter after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out the conviction Thursday.

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. "Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied", said acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim in a statement. 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.

"While we are disappointed by the Second Circuit's decision, we respect it, and look forward to retrying the case".

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