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.