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Silver Found Guilty On All Counts In Federal Corruption Trial

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is surrounded by media as he leaves court in New York where in 2016 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been found guilty on all counts in a federal corruption trial.

Silver was found guilty of operating several corrupt schemes in which he essentially monetized his position as leader of the Assembly to illegally gain over $4 million dollars. Some came through referral fees for a class action asbestos lawsuit, for which the Silver did no work. In exchange, a doctor who saw patents with asbestos related illnesses got state funded research grants. Other schemes involved kickbacks from a legal firm specializing in tax law, and favors to the real estate industry in the form of favorable tax laws. The former speaker was found guilty of extortion and money laundering, among other charges, and faces up to 20 years in prison.  

Silver, who proclaimed his innocence throughout the trial, did not mount a formal defense to the charges. His attorneys said that what the Speaker had done was simply business as usual.

Susan Lerner, with the government reform group Common Cause, said that attitude shows how out of touch politicians in Albany are.

“Albany insiders have lost touch with reality,” Lerner said. “The jury didn’t buy the explanation that self-dealing and back scratching are just business as usual. And that’s not really surprising.”

Other groups are calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo to hold a special session in December to focus on passing new anti-corruption laws. Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, called the verdict a “political earthquake.”

“So far the governor and the legislative leadership have had their heads in the sand, hoping this would go away,” said Horner. “The governor must call a special session on ethics to begin the process of cleaning up Albany.”

Both Horner and Lerner believe that there should be strict limits or even an outright ban on lawmakers earning outside income other than their legislative salaries.  

Silver’s counterpart, the former Leader of the State Senate Dean Skelos, is also on trial for corruption charges that have to do with his outside income. Skelos is also accused of using his influence to gain no-show jobs for his son, Adam Skelos, who is also facing charges.

The leaders who replaced Silver and Skelos have voluntarily foregone taking any outside pay.  

Silver is now automatically expelled from the Assembly. His official Assembly district website has already been wiped clean.

It’s up to Cuomo to call a special election to replace the former speaker.

The governor issued a brief statement following the conviction. "Today, justice was served. Corruption was discovered, investigated, and prosecuted, and the jury has spoken. 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," the statement said.

Silver’s successor, Carl Heastie, said in a statement that he is “deeply saddened” by Silver’s conviction, and vowed to “root out corruption.”

Silver said he will appeal.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.
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