Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are expected to rest their case today against Sheldon Silver. The former Lower East Side assemblyman is undergoing a second trial after the first guilty verdict on corruption charges was nullified by an appeals court.
Testifying under immunity for the prosecution yesterday was Jay Arthur Goldberg, a lifelong friend of Silver and a tax attorney. Sometime in the late 1990s, Goldberg said, he was called to Silver’s office. The powerful assembly speaker told Goldberg he’d convinced a major New York City real estate firm to use his firm for property tax appeals. The Daily News summed up Goldberg’s testimony this way:
“Yaacov (Goldberg’s Hebrew name), I think I’ve going to be able to refer Glenwood Management,” Silver said… “Is this all right, Shelly?” Goldberg recalled replying. “Of course, Yaacov,” Silver. 74, answered. “I’m a lawyer.” Recounting the meeting Tuesday at Silver’s corruption trial in Manhattan Federal Court, Goldberg said he deferred to Silver’s judgment on the ethical implications of paying him the fees.
Silver sent another real estate company, the Witkoff Group, to Goldberg. Through the years, Silver received about $700,000 in referral fees from Goldberg’s firm. In its story from yesterday’s proceedings, the Post also focused on Goldberg’s alleged misgivings about the arrangement:
Goldberg, who has known Silver for 65 years, said he had previously paid referral fees to lawyers who sent business his way, but asked Silver if it was legal in this case because of the pol’s status as speaker. “I’ve given referral fees, but never to the speaker. I wanted to know. I relied on him because I knew him to be an honorable man,” Goldberg said.
But according to AM New York, Goldberg testified that Silver never explicitly requested the legal fees:
Jay Arthur Goldberg, one of two lawyers in the Manhattan firm of Goldberg & Iryami, said the subject of referral fees did not come up when Silver spoke with him briefly on two occasions about seeking tax challenge cases from the real estate companies… “Did Sheldon Silver speak about a referral fee?” the prosecutor asked on the sixth day of Silver’s retrial on federal corruption charges in Manhattan federal court. Goldberg responded, “He never said to stop sending the referral fees. He also never called to ask for them.”
Both developers had lobbied Speaker Silver in an effort to extend tax breaks for building affordable units in luxury projects. They also sought to prevent any strengthening of New York City’s rent regulation law. Goldberg said he believed Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group knew Silver was receiving referral fees. Developer Steven Witkoffm, however, denied any knowledge of Silver’s arrangement with Goldberg during his turn on the witness stand.
Prosecutors must demonstrate that Silver took “official actions” in exchange for payment. He’s accused in two alleged kickback schemes.
In the first trial, Silver’s attorneys did not mount a substantive case in his defense. During a late day hearing yesterday, his new lawyers said they had not decided whether Silver will take the stand in the second trial.
UPDATE 5:11 p.m. The prosecution rested and the defense did not call any witnesses. Closing arguments take place tomorrow morning.