Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, 71, was convicted on all seven counts against him in his high-profile federal corruption trial, bringing to an end a remarkable career in which he spent two decades as one of the state’s most powerful political figures.
“Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who had brought the federal charges against Silver.
The charges were first made public in late January, one day after Silver had appeared next to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and then-state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos at the State of the State address in Albany. Skelos was hit with separate corruption charges a few months later, and is now on trial along with his son.
Bharara, who has established a reputation for rooting out corruption in Albany, brought what was initially a five-count criminal complaint alleging that Silver pocketed $4 million in kickbacks since 2000 in the real estate and healthcare industries in return for favorable treatment in Albany.
By the time the case went to trial, Silver faced seven charges, including honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion.
One scheme involved the awarding of state funds to Dr. Robert Taub, a Columbia University medical researcher, to conduct mesothelioma research. In return, the doctor referred asbestos patients to Weitz & Luxenberg, which employed Silver as of counsel and paid him for the referrals.
The other scheme involved two real estate developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group, that used another law firm with ties to Silver at his behest. Silver also profited from the arrangements.
The trial was in its fifth week, and the jury began deliberations last week.
In February, a month after the charges Silver were announced, he was forced to relinquish the speakership, ultimately being replaced by Carl Heastie of the Bronx, but he stayed on as a rank-and-file assemblyman representing Lower Manhattan.
With the felony convictions, Silver was immediately removed from elected office. The Assembly’s home page quickly removed his biography from its home page.
According to NY1, Silver faces up to 20 years in prison.
“A political earthquake has hit Albany,” said Blair Horner of NYPIRG, a good government group. “This is a stinging rebuke to the ‘Albany business as usual’ defense and a clarion call to clean up state ethics. Hopefully this will be the tipping point at which New York's political leadership will gets its heads out of the sand. Governor Cuomo must now call a special session devoted to ethics reform.”