Silver Seeks to Block Evidence About Co-op Property Taxes at Corruption Trial

Sheldon Silver last summer on the Lower East Side.

Sheldon Silver at National Night Out festivities on the Lower East Side last month.
Sheldon Silver at National Night Out festivities on the Lower East Side last month.

State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s federal corruption trial is scheduled to begin in about six weeks. In advance of the profile legal battle, both federal prosecutors and the former Assembly speaker’s attorneys filed a new round of documents late Friday.

Of particular interest locally, Silver’s legal team is asking Judge Valerie Caproni to prevent prosecutors from introducing evidence regarding pleas for property tax reductions for Silver’s co-op development on the Lower East Side. Prosecutors wrote, “Silver’s efforts to reduce local real-estate taxes for his own building — without disclosing to the Department of Finance that he resided in the building and accordingly stood to personally benefit — reflects deliberate deception by Silver.” But the defense lawyers said a letter from Silver questioning the tax assessment for the Hillman Cooperative on Grand Street is irrelevant to the corruption case.

Prosecutors also hope to present evidence about Silver’s role in blocking a meth clinic near a building owned by Glenwood Management, a powerful developer. The feds allege that he did numerous favors for Glenwood in exchange for cash payments in the form of illegitimate legal fees.

In another filing, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara suggests he’ll try to show that Silver “thwarted” the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel which was created and then disbanded by Governor Cuomo. Members of the panel have said the governor was meddling with their investigations.

The case against the longtime assemblyman centers on allegations that he collected $4 million from two legal firms by using his influence in Albany and New York City. Bharara wants to introduce evidence from prosecutions of other former elected officials to prove that Silver knew his so-called influence peddling was against the law.

But the defense argues that the move is part of an effort to “paint Mr. Silver as merely the latest example of a long line of corrupt Albany politicians, implying that Mr. Silver must be corrupt because of his job.”

Steven F. Molo, a lawyer for Silver, told the Times: “This case is about the specific legal charges against Mr. Silver, and not each and every flaw or perceived flaw in politics and government in Albany… The motions that we filed are directed to keeping the case focused on those charges… and we look forward to the trial, at which Mr. Silver will be vindicated.”

Silver resigned as speaker in January but continues to serve as Lower Manhattan’s assemblyman.