On Friday afternoon, a Manhattan jury found Sheldon Silver guilty of federal corruption charges. Prosecutors retried the former Lower East Side assemblyman after an appeals count threw out the original guilty verdict. Deliberating for a little more than one day, jurors convicted him on all seven counts, including two counts of honest services fraud and one of extortion under color of official right, and a count of money laundering. Sentencing will take place in July.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni allowed Silver to remain free on bail. “You don’t seem like a bail jumping kind of guy,” she noted in court on Friday. Silver’s lawyer, Michael Feldberg, promised another appeal, citing “multiple legal issues,” and said, “We are confident that at the end of this long battle we will prevail.”
Upon leaving the courthouse, Silver was stoic as ever, telling reporters, “Obviously, I’m disappointed at this point” (but) I’m confident that the judicial process will play out in my favor.”
Even though the verdict came swiftly, jurors made it clear their deliberations were difficult. From the New York Times
As jurors left the courthouse, one, Marvin Carson, told several reporters how the jury worked carefully as they went through each of the seven charges. “There was always somebody who wasn’t ready to agree,” Mr. Carson said. “And we wanted every detail checked off.” He described the deliberations as “emotional,” a process that left several jurors in tears, and him longing for a whiskey.
And from Newsday:
Juror Marvin Carson said outside the courthouse on Friday, “There’s tears and there’s upset. It was very emotional . . . because you’ve convicted another human being.” Asked if the testimony about Silver’s quid pro quo schemes had given him a negative impression of state government, Carson said, “It’s one guy.” The jury forewoman, who declined to give her name, walked out of the courthouse in tears. Answering reporters’ questions, she said the government had put on a good case. “I feel very sorry,” she said. “It was very difficult, everything was very difficult. I tried my best.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said:
I commend the career prosecutors of our Office’s Public Corruption Unit, whose determination in securing this important conviction fittingly underscores the importance of pursuing cases against corrupt politicians, no matter the difficulty… One of the most worthy endeavors of this Office is combating public corruption. We will continue to do so with the independence and resolve the Southern District is known for and the citizens of New York so rightly deserve.
Prosecutors alleged that Silver pocketed $4 million in exchange for performing “official acts” in his role as Assembly speaker. These included directing grants to a cancer researcher, who referred cases to a law firm where Silver worked, and enacting legislation beneficial to real estate developers.
In the first trial, Judge Caproni sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison. The lifelong Lower East Side resident is 74.
A Manhattan Jury has spoken. Former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver has been found guilty in his second trial on federal corruption charges.
The first verdict was tossed out on appeal after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Prosecutors presented virtually the same case the second time around, while Judge Valerie Caproni altered her jury instructions to conform with the new standards. The jury just got the case late Thursday, and returned a verdict a short time ago.
Silver was convicted on seven counts, including two counts of honest services fraud and one of extortion under color of official right, and a count of money laundering. He was accused of pocketing $4 million from two kickback schemes, one involving a cancer researcher at Columbia University and the other involving real estate developers with business before the state.
Following the first trial, the lifelong Lower East Side resident was sentenced to 12 years in prison. A sentencing hearing in this trial will take place at July 13.
Sheldon Silver. File photo 2014.
It’s the first full day of deliberations for the jury in the retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.
Silver, 74, faces multiple federal charges in an alleged public corruption scheme. In 2015, another jury found him guilty on all counts, and Judge Valerie Caproni sentenced the former Assembly Speaker to 12 years in prison. The verfdct was later thrown out by an appeals court after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption.
After closing arguments yesterday, the jurors only deliberated for about a half hour. They returned to the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan this morning to continue discussing the merits of the case. There are seven men and five women on the jury.
Prosecutors allege that Silver pocketed $4 million in two separate schemes. He’s accused of directing state grants to a cancer researcher in exchange for lucrative legal referrals and of of accepting referral fees from a law firm that did work for two high profile real estate developers. He has been charged with seven counts of honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud, extortion under color of official right and money laundering.
In court yesterday, Assistant US Attorney Tatiana Martins told the jury, “It is clear as day this is all about the money for Sheldon Silver.” She added, “What the defendant did to line his own pockets wasn’t just wrong, it was criminal.”
The prosecution’s case took about a week-and-a-half to present. The defense called no witnesses. In closing arguments, Silver’s attorney, Michael Feldberg contended that his client never broke the law, noting that, “It is perfectly legal for New York Assembly members to earn outside income.”
“We’re not arguing that Shelly is a perfect man,” added Feldberg. “We’re not arguing that he’s a saint,” but the defense lawyer told jurors that the prosecution failed to prove any quid-pro-quo case.
In jury instructions, Judge Caproni said it’s not enough to conclude that Silver did routine favors for Dr. Robert Taub, the cancer researcher, and for the real estate firms. In order to find Silver guilty, the jury must find that he exchanged “official acts” for payment.
Silver was forced from office due to his 2015 conviction. His Lower Manhattan district is now represented by Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou.
UPDATE 4:05 p.m. The jury has asked Judge Caproni for access to some documents entered into evidence. They also wanted to go out for lunch.
Sheldon Silver attended a rally in 2012 to protest the closure of the Cherry Street Pathmark store.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are expected to rest their case today against Sheldon Silver. The former Lower East Side assemblyman is undergoing a second trial after the first guilty verdict on corruption charges was nullified by an appeals court.
Testifying under immunity for the prosecution yesterday was Jay Arthur Goldberg, a lifelong friend of Silver and a tax attorney. Sometime in the late 1990s, Goldberg said, he was called to Silver’s office. The powerful assembly speaker told Goldberg he’d convinced a major New York City real estate firm to use his firm for property tax appeals. The Daily News summed up Goldberg’s testimony this way:
“Yaacov (Goldberg’s Hebrew name), I think I’ve going to be able to refer Glenwood Management,” Silver said… “Is this all right, Shelly?” Goldberg recalled replying. “Of course, Yaacov,” Silver. 74, answered. “I’m a lawyer.” Recounting the meeting Tuesday at Silver’s corruption trial in Manhattan Federal Court, Goldberg said he deferred to Silver’s judgment on the ethical implications of paying him the fees.
Silver sent another real estate company, the Witkoff Group, to Goldberg. Through the years, Silver received about $700,000 in referral fees from Goldberg’s firm. In its story from yesterday’s proceedings, the Post also focused on Goldberg’s alleged misgivings about the arrangement:
Goldberg, who has known Silver for 65 years, said he had previously paid referral fees to lawyers who sent business his way, but asked Silver if it was legal in this case because of the pol’s status as speaker. “I’ve given referral fees, but never to the speaker. I wanted to know. I relied on him because I knew him to be an honorable man,” Goldberg said.
But according to AM New York, Goldberg testified that Silver never explicitly requested the legal fees:
Jay Arthur Goldberg, one of two lawyers in the Manhattan firm of Goldberg & Iryami, said the subject of referral fees did not come up when Silver spoke with him briefly on two occasions about seeking tax challenge cases from the real estate companies… “Did Sheldon Silver speak about a referral fee?” the prosecutor asked on the sixth day of Silver’s retrial on federal corruption charges in Manhattan federal court. Goldberg responded, “He never said to stop sending the referral fees. He also never called to ask for them.”
Both developers had lobbied Speaker Silver in an effort to extend tax breaks for building affordable units in luxury projects. They also sought to prevent any strengthening of New York City’s rent regulation law. Goldberg said he believed Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group knew Silver was receiving referral fees. Developer Steven Witkoffm, however, denied any knowledge of Silver’s arrangement with Goldberg during his turn on the witness stand.
Prosecutors must demonstrate that Silver took “official actions” in exchange for payment. He’s accused in two alleged kickback schemes.
In the first trial, Silver’s attorneys did not mount a substantive case in his defense. During a late day hearing yesterday, his new lawyers said they had not decided whether Silver will take the stand in the second trial.
UPDATE 5:11 p.m. The prosecution rested and the defense did not call any witnesses. Closing arguments take place tomorrow morning.
Here’s the latest from the federal corruption trial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.
Prosecutors are retrying their case after an appeals court overturned Silver’s 2015 guilty verdict. In day 3 of testimony yesterday, jurors heard from a former nurse who worked for Dr. Robert Taub. The cancer researcher, formerly employed by Columbia University, referred lucrative personal injury cases to the law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, which then paid Silver $3.3 million in referral fees.
The nurse, Mary Hesdorffer, recounted an episode from 2003 in which the doctor advised a patient suffering from mesothelioma to drop her current lawyer and to go with Weitz & Luxenberg instead. The patient was the first referral Taub made to the firm. Prosecutors allege a quid-pro-quo arrangement in which Silver rewarded Taub with $500,000 in state grants. Here’s how the Daily News summed up Hesdorffer’s testimony:
Hesdorffer said she didn’t see the entire interchange between Taub and O’Leary, and was unaware of Taub’s relationship with Silver. But she was furious nonetheless. “It was a turning point — it was something different,” Hesdorffer testified in Manhattan federal court. It was especially surprising, she said, because they worked for a prominent academic institution with high ethical standards. “I told him it was slimy, it was unbecoming to do. I wanted nothing to do with it,” Hesdorffer said. She said Taub responded to her in the “usual fashion” of some of their discussions — by “calling me a school teacher, a nun — I was too rigid.”
Taub cultivated relationships with other lawyers. An Illinois firm gave him more than $3 million for cancer research. Hesdorffer later became executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, but refused to give her former boss any grants. At one point, she warned Taub about his “unethical” and potentially illegal practices: “I told him they would take him out (of his clinics) in handcuffs.” Taub was fired by Columbia in the aftermath of Silver’s arrest and indictment of fraud and money laundering charges.
As the Post reported
, that line about taking Taub out “in handcuffs” caused some controversy in the courtroom yesterday:
Before (Hesdorffer) could finish the sentence, Silver’s lawyers jumped up and objected. The judge also quickly intervened and told the jury to “disregard” the statement, which was then stricken from the record.
Also testifying for the prosecution yesterday were Perry Weitz and Arthur M. Luxenberg. Silver was hired by Weitz & Luxenberg in 2002. They said the powerful assembly speaker was simply brought on at a salary of $120,000 to add prestige. AM NY
reported from the courtroom:
“What were your expectations about Sheldon Silver using his position to bring cases to the firm,” federal prosecutor Tatiana Martins asked Weitz on the third day of Silver’s retrial. “None,” Weitz responded. “Basically, we were giving Shelly an office. We didn’t expect him to do work…We didn’t hire him to bring in cases.” … The law firm’s founders said Wednesday they didn’t know that Silver allegedly steered state grants to Taub’s research center or allegedly helped Taub’s children to secure jobs.
Several other witnesses took the stand yesterday, including retired State Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld. He hired Dr. Taub’s daughter for an unpaid summer internship at the request of an aide to Sheldon Silver. Schoenfeld and Silver are neighbors in the Hillman Cooperative on Grand Street. More from AM NY:
Schoenfeld said Taub’s daughter did “excellent” work. He added that only once before had Silver asked him to consider someone for a job: Silver’s mother-in-law was hired to be Schoenfeld’s secretary. Under cross examination by one of Silver’s lawyers, Schoenfeld said that Taub’s daughter won the internship on merit. “You didn’t speak to Mr. Silver about Mrs. Blander?” asked Silver attorney Rebecca Naeder. “No, I did not,” Schoenfeld said.
Television reporter Dominic Carter got a few words with Silver at the courthouse the other day:
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…
Sheldon Silver leaves court May 3, 2016 after sentencing hearing.
The retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges is set to begin today in Lower Manhattan.
Opening statements are expected this morning before Judge Valerie Caproni. It was in her court more than two years ago that Silver was convicted in a bribery and kickback scheme, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. But the verdict was thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Silver has remained free during his appeals, although he was forced to relinquish his legislative seat.
While noting that retrials often don’t have the same “spark,” the New York Times notes that the caee against Silver is largely unchanged from the original trial:
Although the jury instructions will have to be revised in light of the Supreme Court decision, the presentation of evidence and testimony is largely expected to track that of the first trial. In that case, prosecutors showed that Mr. Silver obtained nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking a series of official actions that benefited others. Prosecutors would still seem to hold an advantage: Judge Caproni, in an order granting Mr. Silver’s request to remain free on bail while he appealed his conviction, observed that “Silver’s case is factually almost nothing like (the Virginia case heard by the Supreme Court). “There is no question that Silver took a number of official acts — most obviously passing legislation and approving state grants and tax-exempt financing — as part of a quid pro quo” in the charged schemes, the judge wrote.
The judge delayed the trial due to an unspecified medical situation involving Dr. Robert Taub, the prosecution’s star witness. In the 2015 trial, prosecutors showed that Silver, the former speaker of the state assembly, facilitated $500,000 in grants to Taub. The doctor, a cancer researcher, then referred lucrative asbestos cases to a law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, which gave Silver a cut of the legal fees. Taub could take the stand as early as today.
Silver, a lifelong Lower East Side resident, was first elected in 1976. He served as the powerful assembly speaker for more than 20 years.
The jury has been selected for Sheldon Silver’s retrial on federal corruption charges.
According to the New York Post, the 12-person panel includes a retired flight attendant, a retired teacher and a nurse in Mt. Sinai’s critical care department. It was a fairly simple process. Judge Valerie Caproni wrapped up jury selection in a single day yesterday. Opening statements, however, won’t begin until April 30 because a key witness is dealing with a medical situation.
Silver, the former Lower East Side assemblyman, was convicted in a kickback and bribery scheme in 2015. But the verdict was thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the legal definition of public corruption.
A lot has changed since the original trial. Yesterday at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan the former assembly speaker’s case was little more than an afterthought. That’s because the media world was consumed by the Michael Cohen-Stormy Daniels Show.
Sheldon Silver, 2016.
There have been complications in the retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.
The trial was scheduled to begin next week, April 16. But during a hearing yesterday, Federal Judge Valerie Caproni revealed that the prosecution’s most important witness, Dr. Robert Taub, is dealing with an unspecified medical situation. He may require surgery, and won’t be available to take the stand until later in the month.
The judge plans to go ahead with jury selection next week. But according to Newsday, opening statements won’t occur until April 23 at the earliest. Federal prosecutors have requested a two week delay.
Silver is accused in a $4 million alleged bribery and kickback scheme. His 2015 conviction was thrown out by an appeals court due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrowing of the public corruption statute. In the first trial, Taub testified that he received $500,000 in state grants when Silver was the powerful speaker of the State Assembly. He then referred cancer patients to a law firm, which paid Silver referral fees.
Also at Tuesday’s hearing, the judge rejected motions from the defense to toss out evidence regarding favors performed by Silver. The Supreme Court ruling requires prosecutors to show that any quid-pro-quo scheme by elected officials includes “official acts.” Judge Caproni ruled that prosecutors can introduce circumstantial evidence regarding favors by Silver as part of their larger case.
Silver, 74, was sentenced to 12 years in prison following the first trial. The retrial is expected to take up to six weeks.
Sheldon Silver at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. November 2015.
The retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges is set to begin next week.
Silver was convicted in a $4 million bribery and kickback scheme in 2015, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. But an appeals court threw out the conviction last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption under federal law. Silver has not served any jail time.
This past week, the Daily News spoke with a juror in the original case, who said he regretted his decision to convict Silver, the former assembly speaker. Kenneth Graham, a taxi driver from the Bronx, said, “When you are on a jury, sometimes you gotta do what the rest of them do… I think they should set him free.”
During deliberations, Graham asked to be removed from the jury, saying he’d recently learned that the owner of the medallion cab he drove was a close friend of Silver. The judge, Valerie Caproni, rejected his request. Graham told the News last week that other jurors pressured him into voting to convict, but they he would have held out if given a second chance.
In a separate story, the Wall Street Journal looks at the prospects of a successful prosecution of Silver in the second trial. It will be watched nationwide as a test case, indicating how much federal law has been weakened in public corruption cases.
Prosecutors say Silver funneled state grants to a cancer researcher who then sent patients to a law firm, which paid Silver referral fees. In another alleged scheme, Silver was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for enacting tax breaks that helped a Manhattan real estate firm.
The evidence was enough for the jury to find Silver guilty of quid-pro-quo arrangements. But in a 2016 ruling in a Virginia case, the high court said “official acts” by an elected official had to include specific use of government power, rather than acts that could be perceived as “constituent services.” Silver and Dean Skelos, the former majority leader in the State Senate, were both convicted at around the same time. Both verdicts were later invalidated. The Journal speculated about what to expect the second time around:
“People are looking to the Silver and Skelos retrials to understand whether and when prosecutors can secure convictions in cases beyond paradigmatic bribery,” said Kelly Kramer, a defense attorney at firm Mayer Brown who isn’t involved in either case… Legal experts say the former lawmakers’ second trials will likely be similar in substance to the first ones. Retrials typically favor the prosecution, which carries the burden of proof, said Daniel R. Alonso, a former federal prosecutor and current managing director at compliance risk-consulting firm Exiger. “They will have seen which witnesses play well with the jury and which don’t,” he said.
Silver’s trial is set for April 16.
Sheldon Silver. File photo.
A federal judge yesterday rejected Sheldon Silver’s latest attempt to avoid a spring retrial. Judge Valerie Caproni yesterday dismissed arguments made by the former Lower East Side assemblyman. The new trial on public corruption charges is scheduled to begin April 16.
An appeals court last year threw out the original 2015 conviction and 12 year prison sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Silver asked the high court to block a retrial, but it refused.
Silver stands accused in a $4 million alleged bribery and kickback scheme. In their arguments to Judge Caproni, his lawyers asserted that prosecutors failed to prove that Silver engaged in a quid-pro-quo racket. The attorneys also claimed that some of the alleged offenses did not occur within the five year statute of limitations. Caproni said the arguments from Silver’s team, “run counter to the law.”
Silver has been free on bail since his arrest in January of 2015. He was forced from his lofty perch in the state assembly following the initial conviction more than two years ago.
The retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is set for April 16. At a hearing yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni declined to delay the start date, even though Silver is changing attorneys.
Silver’s 2015 conviction on federal corruption charges was thrown out by an appeals court last year. While a U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidated the original verdict, the high court recently declined to dismiss Silver’s case altogether.
High priced defense attorneys Steve Molo and Joel Cohen will not be representing Silver in the retrial. This time around, Michael Feldberg will be defending the former assembly speaker. Molo and Cohen told the Daily News that the change was made because defending these types of cases is, “incredibly expensive” and “Mr. Silver’s assets have been frozen for three years.”
After leaving the courthouse, Silver expressed confidence in his legal prospects, saying, “I believe justice will prevail.”
Silver was convicted on charges that he performed “official acts” in exchange for about $4 million in illicit legal fees. The appeals court ruled that Caproni’s jury instructions were flawed in light of the Supreme Court ruling.
Sheldon Silver at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. November 2015.
The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected former New York State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s request for an appeal. The decision means his retrial on federal corruption charges will likely go ahead as scheduled this coming spring.
In November of 2015, the former Lower East Side power broker was convicted on public corruption charges. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but remained free while the appeals process ran its course. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned the conviction and sent the case back for retrial. The appeals court found fault with the trial judge’s jury instructions in the aftermath of a supreme court case that weakened federal prosecutors’ hand in corruption cases. Silver filed the appeal with the high court in an effort to prevent a new trial.
Silver, a life-long Lower East Side resident, represented Lower Manhattan in the state assembly for four decades and had served as speaker of the assembly for more than 20 years. He was removed from office as a result of the 2015 conviction.
The retrial is tentatively scheduled to begin April 16.
On Friday, the U.S. Attorney filed a request to retry former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges in the spring of 2018.
Just a day earlier, a federal appeals court announced that Silver’s retrial would be delayed to give the onetime speaker of the New York State Assembly time to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The original guilty verdict was thrown out last month.
“Given the logistical challenges associated with scheduling a month-long trial,” prosecutors wrote, “the Government requests that the Court set a tentative re-trial date in March, April or early May 2018 to permit the parties and the re-try this case in a reasonable time period should the Supreme Court deny the defendant’s petition.” Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim accuses Silver’s legal team of using delay tactics that could jeopardize the government’s case. The prosecution’s star witness, cancer doctor Robert Taub, is 81.
Silver was convicted in connection with a $4 million bribery scheme and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction due to improper jury instructions.
It’s a big week for former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, who’s appealing his conviction on federal corruption charges. Lawyers for the former New York State power broker will lay out their case during a Thursday hearing before the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison in May of last year. A jury found him guilty of collecting $4 million in illicit payments and bribes. Silver’s legal team believes a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Virginia case has invalidated the verdict. They will argue that the trial court judge, Valerie Caproni, erred in her jury instructions, which defined “official action” allegedly taken by Silver in exchange for the payments.
Silver was, of course, prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by President Trump’s Justice Department over the weekend after refusing to resign his position (all 46 Obama-era states attorneys were told to step down). Bharara did not try the case against Silver. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein led the government’s prosecution. He’ll take the lead again on Thursday.