Sheldon Silver Retrial is Underway With Testimony From Cancer Researcher

It’s day two in the retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges.

Dr. Robert Taub, the prosecution’s star witness is back on the witness stand today. Prosecutors say Silver funneled grants totaling $500,000 to the Columbia University cancer researcher in exchange for lucrative legal referrals. The former Assembly speaker allegedly pocketed  $3 million after cancer patients found their way to Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver was “of counsel.”

During testimony yesterday, Taub said he assumed Silver would be making money off of the referrals. The doctor is a specialist in mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. “My purpose was to incentivize Mr. Silver to be an advocate for mesothelioma cases and help raise funds for research,” said Taub. In order to be successful, prosecutors must show a quid pro quo, that Silver took “official action” and then received kickbacks.

In 2015, Silver was found guilty by another Manhattan jury and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The case is now being retried after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Defense attorneys argue that the onetime Albany power broker did nothing illegal. Prosecutors obviously disagree, During yesterday’s opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said of Silver, “He told lie after lie. He kept secret after secret. This was not politics as usual. This was politics for profit.”

In addition to Silver’s illicit agreement with Taub, prosecutors say he orchestrated another scheme to pocket referral fees from real estate developers. He received payments from Goldberg & Iryami, a firm specializing in property tax appeals, and at the same time, allegedly changed state legislation to benefit the developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group.

Silver’s attorney, Michael Feldberg, told the jury that prosecutors are over-reaching. “Distasteful is not criminal. A conflict of interest is not a criminal offense… It is not a crime to be a politician—even a powerful one.”

More to come as the trial progresses…