Federal Jury is Deliberating Sheldon Silver’s Fate (Updated)

Sheldon Silver. File photo 2014.
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.