A New Federal Trial for Shelly Silver

Once upon a time Sheldon Silver, 73, was the most powerful man in New York, more powerful in some ways than the Governor.  A Democratic assemblyman from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Shelly, as he was known to friends and enemies alike, was elected Speaker of the New York State Assembly in 1994. New York’s state government has been called “three men in a room,” for the extraordinary power the governor, senate majority leader, and assembly speaker have in shaping legislation.

In 2015, following his conviction in the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York, Silver resigned his seat.

Silver was prosecuted by Preet Bharara, the high-profile former United States Attorney for the SDNY who was incidentally fired by Donald Trump, for unrelated reasons, earlier this year. Bharara alleged in the superseding indictment that Silver had committed seven crimes, including Honest Services Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1346), Hobbs Act extortion (18 U.S.C. § 1951), and related charges.

The alleged scheme included money payments by two law firms – one, an asbestos litigation firm, and the other, a tax abatement firm – to Silver in exchange for Silver using his office to direct grants and shape legislation to benefit a doctor, in one case, and a real estate firm, in the other. Silver was also accused of hiding the corrupt payments through an investment scheme.

After a month-long trial, a jury found Silver guilty of all seven counts; the District Court Judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison.  The Court of Appeals ruled this week, however, that the jury instructions given by the trial judge were too broad, in light of McDonnell v. United States.

Bharara tweeted yesterday that he believes that the case ought to be retried by the Acting United States Attorney for the SDNY.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.