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Sheldon Silver Pleads Not Guilty, Moves For Dismissal of Charges

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The reports are starting to come in from federal court in Manhattan this afternoon, where Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver has pleaded not guilty to corruption charges. Here’s how Reuters told the story:

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the state’s most powerful politicians for two decades, pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges on Tuesday. Silver, 71, who resigned as speaker after his arrest last month but remains the assemblyman for Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and using his office for extortion. Silver entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where one of his defense attorneys, Steven Molo, said they planned to file a motion to dismiss the indictment.

The Daily News leads with Silver’s bid to have the indictment dismissed:

Lawyers for Sheldon Silver slammed Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as a press-hungry prosecutor Tuesday as the former tate Assembly Speaker pleaded not guilty. Attorney Steven Molo said in Manhattan Federal Court that the “media firestorm” that preceded Silver’s surrender last month on corruption charges destroyed his chances at a fair trial. “The U.S. attorney excoriated the defendant and basically deprived him of the presumption of innocence,” said Molo, who filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on improper extrajudicial statements following the arraignment.  He noted that prior to the complaint being unsealed, leaks began appearing in news reports. That was followed by a speech by Bharara at New York Law School slamming the “three men in a room” culture of Albany. After that, Bharara appeared on an MSNBC for a lengthy interview. “The statements here were extraordinary. It was premeditated,” Molo said before Judge Varlie Caproni.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen countered that Bharara’s statements were not unusual or extraordinary and didn’t influence the grand jury. “All of the allegations by Mr. Molo just now in court are baseless,” she said.

The feds accuse Silver of profiting nearly $4 million from bribes and kickbacks. They allege that the payments to the former speaker were disguised as legal fees. A motion filed by Silver’s legal team today reads:

“…there is nothing wrong with a New York state legislator earning outside income from other professional pursuits: Part-time public service has long been the norm in this State… Nor is there anything improper about an attorney earning referral fees for bringing in business to a law firm: ‘Rainmaking’ is not a federal crime.”

A trial could begin as early as June, but a November date is more likely. It is expected to last about a month. Both parties are due back in court May 7 at 2 p.m. to discuss scheduling.

Outside the courtroom following the hearing, Silver told reporters,  “I will only say to you that once this process is over I will be vindicated, I am not guilty.”



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