In court papers filed on Friday, federal prosecutors urged a judge to dismiss State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s latest bid to derail their case. The former Assembly speaker was indicted earlier this year and accused of accepting $4 million in kickbacks.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara ridiculed arguments from Silver’s legal team that the federal case is based on flimsy evidence:
As much as Silver may wish otherwise, bribes, kickbacks, and extortion are just as illegal in New York as they are in every other state, whether or not they are practiced by a sitting legislator who also happens to be a lawyer, whether or not legislators are permitted to have outside employment, and whether or not the money is passed to Silver as cash in a suitcase or conveniently disguised as a lawyer’s referral fee.
Two weeks ago, Silver’s lawyers called on Judge Valerie Caponi to throw out the federal case:
At bottom, what the government objects to in this case is not actual federal crimes but rather longstanding features of New York state government that the U.S. attorney finds distasteful… Throughout its history, New York has allowed state lawmakers to pursue private part-time employment. Numerous Assembly members have thus had active private careers at the same time they served the public — including careers as lawyers at private law firms.
Silver faces trial in November. While he was forced to resign as speaker, he retained his seat in the 65th Assembly District.
Capital reports that Assemblyman Silver is showing quite an independent streak, as Albany’s new leadership muddles along:
One result of Silver’s changed status is that, with little notice, he has begun to rebel, voting against the majority of his Democratic colleagues when he happens to disagree with them… Between January and May, the former speaker opposed (eight) measures that came before the floor. In contrast, Silver voted yes each of the 1,160 times a bill came before the Assembly in 2014, when he was still speaker… “It’s not a matter of whether I’m voting no,” Silver said. “When I was speaker, I was responsible for everything that was out on the floor, so I supported everything we put out on the floor. Now I evaluate bills.”
The story notes that Silver “generally remains sociable, and can frequently be seen conversing with other members or mingling in the members-only break room in a hallway outside his former office.” His new office is “a room whose size is typical of one belonging to a low-ranking legislator with some seniority but no official power.”