Silver Begins Serving 6 1/2 Year Prison Term in Otisville


In the past week, former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver began serving a 6 and 1/2 year prison sentence. Back in 2015, he was arrested on public corruption charges, but had remained free while a lengthy appeals process played out.

As of Wednesday, he had reported to the federal prison in Otisville. The facility is located about 80 miles north of New York City, near the Catskill Mountains. The Associated Press reported that Silver was tested for COVID-19 and placed in quarantine for 14 days.

Silver was first convicted in two embezzlement schemes in 2015, but that verdict was thrown out on appeal. He was convicted again in 2018. An appeals court invalidated part of the second verdict. In July, he was sentenced in connection with the remaining counts, which covered a scheme to pocket $800,000 in legal fees in exchange for advancing legislation beneficial to two real estate firms.  Silver was the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly at the time.

Silver, 76, argued that he should be allowed to serve his sentence at home, due to health concerns over the coronavirus. But the judge imposed a lengthy prison sentence, saying, “His time has come… He needs to go to jail.”

During the pandemic, no visitors are allowed at Otisville.


Silver Sentenced to More Than 6 Years in Prison; Must Surrender Aug. 26


As City & State’s First Read newsletter put it this morning, Sheldon Silver, “finally, honestly, truly for real this time is heading to prison.”

On Monday, a federal court judge sentenced the former Lower East Side assemblyman to 6-and-one-half years in prison and fined him $1 million. The once powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly was convicted twice on public corruption charges and has dodged going to jail for more than five years.

Silver’s lawyers argued against a prison term, invoking health risks due to the coronavirus epidemic. But Judge Valerie Caproni said, “Mr. Silver, his time has come… He needs to go to jail.”  It’s the third time she sentenced Silver. Courts overturned earlier convictions. In a story earlier this week, The New York Times noted Silver’s elusiveness, from both political rivals and the law. “Even in recent years,” the Times wrote, “while his convictions were under appeal, occasional sightings of Mr. Silver around his Lower Manhattan neighborhood seemed to symbolize, in the view of his critics, a kind of imperviousness to accountability.”

In 2015, Silver was  convicted of pocketing almost $4 million in payments in exchange for official actions that benefited a cancer researcher and real estate developers. He was convicted a second time after the original verdict was tossed out on appeal. Earlier this year, a higher court invalidated Silver’s conviction on some counts, while allowing others to stand.

On Monday, Silver told the judge, “My use of my office for personal gain was improper, selfish and ethically indefensible… I want to be clear: What I did was wrong,” He added, “I know that a lot of people have lost faith in their government… and I know that my actions contributed to that loss of faith.” At the same time, Silver said he believes he did good things for constituents in the 65th Assembly District over many decades. “I thought I was pretty good at it (being a legislator), and I think we helped a lot of people… But I destroyed that legacy.”

Caproni said she didn’t want to see Silver, who’s 76 years old, die in prison, and indicated that precautions could be taken to protect his health. Silver is required to report to prison on Aug. 26.  The Bureau of Prisons will determine where he will be jailed.


Appeals Court Overturns Part of Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Conviction

Sheldon Silver in happier times - at Chinatown's Lunar New Year Parade in 2012.

Sheldon Silver in happier times – at Chinatown’s Lunar New Year Parade in 2012.

A federal appeals court this week overturned part of Sheldon Silver’s conviction on public corruption charges, but he is still likely to go to prison.

The former Lower East Side assemblyman was sentenced in 2018 to seven years in prison for taking $4 million in illicit payments. Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has thrown out Silver’s conviction on charges that he traded political favors for legal referrals from a cancer researcher. The court, however, let stand his conviction on other charges related to a real estate scheme.

In the ruling, the judges explained that federal prosecutors failed to prove their case as specifically as the law requires: “Without a requirement that an official must promise to influence a particular question or matter… any official who accepts a thing of value and then later acts to the benefit of the donor, in any manner, could be vulnerable to criminal prosecution.”

The ruling from the appeals court means that Silver will need to be re-sentenced in U.S. District Court. He was first convicted in 2015, but appealed and won the right to a new trial. Silver also appealed after a second Manhattan jury found him guilty on corruption charges a couple of years ago. He has not served a day in prison so far.

According to prosecutors, Silver convinced the real estate firms, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group, to refer cases to Goldberg & Iryami, a law firm that handles real estate tax matters. Silver received referral fees. The feds said Silver then pushed through legislation beneficial to the real estate developers. The appeals court stated, there is “overwhelming evidence that Silver knowingly accepted referrals in exchange.”

The judges found that Silver had also chosen to abuse his power for personal gain in his dealings with the cancer researcher, Dr. Robert Taub. Silver pocketed legal fees after Taub referred patients to Silver’s law firm. Taub received state grants to fund his research. But some of the instances cited by prosecutors were too old to be legally relevant, according to the appeals court judges, and others were too insignificant to be considered a quid pro quo.



Sheldon Silver Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison


The once powerful Lower East Side assemblyman, Sheldon Silver, was sentenced today to seven years in prison after a federal jury this past spring convicted him on public corruption charges.

In 2016, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni handed Silver a 12-year prison term. The first verdict was thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Today the same judge said that, “upon further reflection,” she had decided on a shorter sentence for the former assembly speaker.

In court today, she observed, “Mr. Silver is generally a healthy 74-year old man. But visually he has aged more than the three years that have gone by chronologically” (since the original 2015 trial). In a letter to the judge, Silver wrote, “I pray I will not die in prison,” and his lawyers asked that he be able to perform community service rather than being sentenced to a long prison term. In court this afternoon, Silver added, “The last three years have been enormously difficult for me. He expressed regret without admitting criminal misconduct. “The events that are outlined in these trials have brought a great distrust in New York government. I am extremely remorseful for that.”

Caproni praised the ex-New York power broker for the apology, saying, “That was a wise decision on Mr. Silver’s part,” but added, “Mr. Silver’s conduct clearly caused discernible harm.” She chided him for failing to acknowledge what, “24 citizens in two trials concluded” that he engaged in criminal behavior. “He seems to have not come to terms with what many people think about politicians — that they are deeply corrupt.” Referencing Albany’s culture of corruption, Caproni asserted, “This has to stop… New York state has to get its act together and do something institutionally to stop corruption.”

Prosecutors argued at trial that Silver pocketed almost $4 million in illegal payments in exchange for taking official actions to help two influential real estate firms and a cancer researcher. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman asked for a term “substantially in excess” of 10 years. Following this afternoon’s sentencing, Berman said:

When he assumed his powerful position at the top of New York State government, Sheldon Silver took an oath to do the work of the people.  Instead, he leveraged his tremendous influence to pad his bank account and line his pockets.  Sheldon Silver has been given a lengthy sentence of seven years in federal prison.  We hope today’s fittingly stiff sentence sends a clear message: brokering official favors for your personal benefit is illegal and will result in prison time.  I thank the career prosecutors of this Office for their perseverance in this important case for the people of New York.


In addition to the prison sentence, Caproni ordered Siilver to pay $1.7 million in fines. He’s scheduled to surrender Oct. 5, but has promised to appeal. Upon leaving court, Silver had little to say. He pushed his way past a swarm of TV cameras and reporters to a car waiting for him at the curb.

Sheldon Silver Pleads For Mercy Ahead of Sentencing in Public Corruption Case

Sheldon Silver in happier times - at Chinatown's Lunar New Year Parade in 2012.

Sheldon Silver in happier times – at Chinatown’s Lunar New Year Parade in 2012.

In advance of his sentencing this coming Friday, July 27, Sheldon Silver is pleading with Federal Judge Valerie Caproni to consider alternatives to a lengthy prison sentence.

In May, the former Lower East Side assemblyman was found guilty in a $4 million bribery and kickback scheme. The judge sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison after his first conviction in 2016, but that original verdict was invalidated when the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of political corruption.

In court papers filed last week, prosecutors said, “We believe that the defendant was motivated by greed. Silver is an example of why the public has lost faith in their elected officials.” The U.S. Attorney wants a sentence, “substantially in excess of 10 years.”

But Silver, in a letter to Judge Caproni, wrote:

As you consider my sentence, please know how deeply sorry I am. I am broken-hearted to have damaged the ability of my fellow New Yorkers to trust in their government and the integrity of those who serve in it. The only confidence I have left is thanks to the strength and support of my wife, who is my rock, but we are both crumbling. I worry about my grandchildren and how they will be treated because of me. I worry that my wife will be destitute. I worry about her trying to visit me while continuing to be a full-time helper for her 93 year old mother. I worry about my own age and health. I pray I will not die in prison. The work that has been the focus of most of my life has become dirty and shameful. Everything I ever accomplished has become a joke and a spectacle. My family’s chances of living a normal life and my wife’s hopes of a restful retirement have all been torn apart. I hardly sleep. I think of nothing except this case, and everything and everyone that has been affected by it. I have read and reread the transcript of your words at my previous sentencing and I am filled with shame.Your Honor, when you weigh what sentence to deliver, please know that I have fully taken this experience to heart. Please know that I have already lost so much that I can never replace and I will always live with the knowledge of those I failed. I beg for your mercy so that I can somehow go out into the world again to atone to everyone I have hurt. 
Sheldon Silver leaves court May 3, 2016 after sentencing hearing.

Sheldon Silver leaves court May 3, 2016 after sentencing hearing.

Silver’s attorneys are asking the judge to forego a conventional sentence. After a “meaningful custodial sentence,” they wrote, the former speaker of the state assembly should be ordered to perform “rigorous” community service, helping ordinary New Yorkers navigate the government bureaucracy.
While he is expressing regret, Silver stops well short of admitting guilt in his appeal to Judge Caproni. In a legal brief, his attorney explains, “Mr. Silver maintains that (his) conduct, while far from exemplary, did not cross the line of criminality, and he has a constitutional right to seek to vindicate that view on appeal.” 
Before his first sentencing, Silver submitted dozens of letters from friends and constituents, who all spoke of his good works in the 65th Assembly District. Defense attorney Michael Feldberg used many of their comments in his new brief. In 2016, the judge acknowledged Silver’s almost 40 years of public service, but said she could not excuse his behavior. Here’s a portion of our story from May 3, 2016, after Silver’s sentencing:

Judge Caproni said she carefully considered “all of the very kind letters” from people pleading for leniency. She called Silver an unusually gifted politician who “went beyond the call of duty” for his constituents…  At the same time, however, Caproni said she concluded during the course of the trial that “New York State suffered tangible harm” from the former assembly speaker’s actions over many years… “Silver’s corruption cast a shadow over everything he has done,” she said. The judge said her task was to decide whether Silver was a basically decent man who had simply gone astray, or whether he was fundamentally corrupt. In the end, she concluded that he was confronted on many occasions with the opportunity to “make things right,” yet he didn’t change his behavior.  “I hope the sentence I impose on you will make other politicians think twice, until their better angels take over,” said Caproni. “Or, if there are no better angels, perhaps the fear of living out one’s golden years in an orange jumpsuit will keep them on the straight and narrow.”

Prosecutors alleged that Silver pocketed $4 million in exchange for performing “official acts” in his role as Assembly speaker. These included directing grants to a cancer researcher, who referred cases to a law firm where Silver worked, and enacting legislation beneficial to real estate developers.

Sheldon Silver Sentencing Brief July 2018 by The Lo-Down on Scribd

Followup: Sheldon Silver’s Second Conviction on Corruption Charges

On Friday afternoon, a Manhattan jury found Sheldon Silver guilty of federal corruption charges. Prosecutors retried the former Lower East Side assemblyman after an appeals count threw out the original guilty verdict.  Deliberating for a little more than one day, jurors convicted him on all seven counts, including two counts of honest services fraud and one of extortion under color of official right, and a count of money laundering. Sentencing will take place in July.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni allowed Silver to remain free on bail. “You don’t seem like a bail jumping kind of guy,” she noted in court on Friday. Silver’s lawyer, Michael Feldberg, promised another appeal, citing “multiple legal issues,” and said, “We are confident that at the end of this long battle we will prevail.”

Upon leaving the courthouse, Silver was stoic as ever, telling reporters, “Obviously, I’m disappointed at this point” (but) I’m confident that the judicial process will play out in my favor.”

Even though the verdict came swiftly, jurors made it clear their deliberations were difficult. From the New York Times:

As jurors left the courthouse, one, Marvin Carson, told several reporters how the jury worked carefully as they went through each of the seven charges. “There was always somebody who wasn’t ready to agree,” Mr. Carson said. “And we wanted every detail checked off.” He described the deliberations as “emotional,” a process that left several jurors in tears, and him longing for a whiskey.

And from Newsday:

Juror Marvin Carson said outside the courthouse on Friday, “There’s tears and there’s upset. It was very emotional . . . because you’ve convicted another human being.” Asked if the testimony about Silver’s quid pro quo schemes had given him a negative impression of state government, Carson said, “It’s one guy.” The jury forewoman, who declined to give her name, walked out of the courthouse in tears. Answering reporters’ questions, she said the government had put on a good case. “I feel very sorry,” she said. “It was very difficult, everything was very difficult. I tried my best.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said:

I commend the career prosecutors of our Office’s Public Corruption Unit, whose determination in securing this important conviction fittingly underscores the importance of pursuing cases against corrupt politicians, no matter the difficulty… One of the most worthy endeavors of this Office is combating public corruption. We will continue to do so with the independence and resolve the Southern District is known for and the citizens of New York so rightly deserve.

Prosecutors alleged that Silver pocketed $4 million in exchange for performing “official acts” in his role as Assembly speaker. These included directing grants to a cancer researcher, who referred cases to a law firm where Silver worked, and enacting legislation beneficial to real estate developers.

In the first trial, Judge Caproni sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison. The lifelong Lower East Side resident is 74.


Sheldon Silver Convicted on All Counts in Second Corruption Trial


A Manhattan Jury has spoken. Former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver has been found guilty in his second trial on federal corruption charges.

The first verdict was tossed out on appeal after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Prosecutors presented virtually the same case the second time around, while Judge Valerie Caproni altered her jury instructions to conform with the new standards. The jury just got the case late Thursday, and returned a verdict a short time ago.

Silver was convicted on seven counts, including two counts of honest services fraud and one of extortion under color of official right, and a count of money laundering. He was accused of pocketing $4 million from two kickback schemes, one involving a cancer researcher at Columbia University and the other involving real estate developers with business before the state.

Following the first trial, the lifelong Lower East Side resident was sentenced to 12 years in prison. A sentencing hearing in this trial will take place at July 13.


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.


Prosecution in Sheldon Silver Trial Expected to Rest Today (Updated)

Sheldon Silver attended a rally in 2012 to protest the closure of the Cherry Street Pathmark store.

Sheldon Silver attended a rally in 2012 to protest the closure of the Cherry Street Pathmark store.

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.

Sheldon Silver Trial Day 3: Cancer Researcher Urged to Stop Sending Referrals

Here’s the latest from the federal corruption trial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.

Prosecutors are retrying their case after an appeals court overturned Silver’s 2015 guilty verdict. In day 3 of testimony yesterday, jurors heard from a former nurse who worked for Dr. Robert Taub. The cancer researcher, formerly employed by Columbia University, referred lucrative personal injury cases to the law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, which then paid Silver $3.3 million in referral fees.

The nurse, Mary Hesdorffer, recounted an episode from 2003 in which the doctor advised a patient suffering from mesothelioma to drop her current lawyer and to go with Weitz & Luxenberg instead. The patient was the first referral Taub made to the firm. Prosecutors allege a quid-pro-quo arrangement in which Silver rewarded Taub with $500,000 in state grants. Here’s how the Daily News summed up Hesdorffer’s testimony:

Hesdorffer said she didn’t see the entire interchange between Taub and O’Leary, and was unaware of Taub’s relationship with Silver. But she was furious nonetheless. “It was a turning point — it was something different,” Hesdorffer testified in Manhattan federal court. It was especially surprising, she said, because they worked for a prominent academic institution with high ethical standards. “I told him it was slimy, it was unbecoming to do. I wanted nothing to do with it,” Hesdorffer said.  She said Taub responded to her in the “usual fashion” of some of their discussions — by “calling me a school teacher, a nun — I was too rigid.”

Taub cultivated relationships with other lawyers. An Illinois firm gave him more than $3 million for cancer research. Hesdorffer later became executive director of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, but refused to give her former boss any grants.  At one point, she warned Taub about his “unethical” and potentially illegal practices: “I told him they would take him out (of his clinics) in handcuffs.”  Taub was fired by Columbia in the aftermath of Silver’s arrest and indictment of fraud and money laundering charges.
As the Post reported, that line about taking Taub out “in handcuffs” caused some controversy in the courtroom yesterday:
Before (Hesdorffer) could finish the sentence, Silver’s lawyers jumped up and objected. The judge also quickly intervened and told the jury to “disregard” the statement, which was then stricken from the record.
Also testifying for the prosecution yesterday were Perry Weitz and Arthur M. Luxenberg. Silver was hired by Weitz & Luxenberg in 2002. They said the powerful assembly speaker was simply brought on at a salary of $120,000 to add prestige. AM NY reported from the courtroom:

“What were your expectations about Sheldon Silver using his position to bring cases to the firm,” federal prosecutor Tatiana Martins asked Weitz on the third day of Silver’s retrial. “None,” Weitz responded. “Basically, we were giving Shelly an office. We didn’t expect him to do work…We didn’t hire him to bring in cases.” … The law firm’s founders said Wednesday they didn’t know that Silver allegedly steered state grants to Taub’s research center or allegedly helped Taub’s children to secure jobs.

Several other witnesses took the stand yesterday, including retired State Supreme Court Justice Martin Schoenfeld. He hired Dr. Taub’s daughter for an unpaid summer internship at the request of an aide to Sheldon Silver. Schoenfeld and Silver are neighbors in the Hillman Cooperative on Grand Street. More from AM NY:

Schoenfeld said Taub’s daughter did “excellent” work. He added that only once before had Silver asked him to consider someone for a job: Silver’s mother-in-law was hired to be Schoenfeld’s secretary. Under cross examination by one of Silver’s lawyers, Schoenfeld said that Taub’s daughter won the internship on merit. “You didn’t speak to Mr. Silver about Mrs. Blander?” asked Silver attorney Rebecca Naeder. “No, I did not,” Schoenfeld said.

Television reporter Dominic Carter got a few words with Silver at the courthouse the other day:

Sheldon Silver Retrial is Underway With Testimony From Cancer Researcher

It’s day two in the retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges.

Dr. Robert Taub, the prosecution’s star witness is back on the witness stand today. Prosecutors say Silver funneled grants totaling $500,000 to the Columbia University cancer researcher in exchange for lucrative legal referrals. The former Assembly speaker allegedly pocketed  $3 million after cancer patients found their way to Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver was “of counsel.”

During testimony yesterday, Taub said he assumed Silver would be making money off of the referrals. The doctor is a specialist in mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. “My purpose was to incentivize Mr. Silver to be an advocate for mesothelioma cases and help raise funds for research,” said Taub. In order to be successful, prosecutors must show a quid pro quo, that Silver took “official action” and then received kickbacks.

In 2015, Silver was found guilty by another Manhattan jury and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The case is now being retried after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Defense attorneys argue that the onetime Albany power broker did nothing illegal. Prosecutors obviously disagree, During yesterday’s opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said of Silver, “He told lie after lie. He kept secret after secret. This was not politics as usual. This was politics for profit.”

In addition to Silver’s illicit agreement with Taub, prosecutors say he orchestrated another scheme to pocket referral fees from real estate developers. He received payments from Goldberg & Iryami, a firm specializing in property tax appeals, and at the same time, allegedly changed state legislation to benefit the developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group.

Silver’s attorney, Michael Feldberg, told the jury that prosecutors are over-reaching. “Distasteful is not criminal. A conflict of interest is not a criminal offense… It is not a crime to be a politician—even a powerful one.”

More to come as the trial progresses…



Opening Statements Expected Today in Sheldon Silver Retrial

Sheldon Silver leaves court May 3, 2016 after sentencing hearing.

Sheldon Silver leaves court May 3, 2016 after sentencing hearing.

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.

Jury Seated in Sheldon Silver Retrial

silver city hall small

The jury has been selected for Sheldon Silver’s retrial on federal corruption charges.

According to the New York Post, the 12-person panel includes a retired flight attendant, a retired teacher and a nurse in Mt. Sinai’s critical care department. It was a fairly simple process. Judge Valerie Caproni wrapped up jury selection in a single day yesterday. Opening statements, however, won’t begin until April 30 because a key witness is dealing with a medical situation.

Silver, the former Lower East Side assemblyman, was convicted in a kickback and bribery scheme in 2015. But the verdict was thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the legal definition of public corruption.

A lot has changed since the original trial. Yesterday at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan the former assembly speaker’s case was little more than an afterthought. That’s because the media world was consumed by the Michael Cohen-Stormy Daniels Show.

Silver Trial Delayed as Star Witness Deals With Medical Issue

Sheldon Silver, 2016.

Sheldon Silver, 2016.

There have been complications in the retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.

The trial was scheduled to begin next week, April 16. But during a hearing yesterday, Federal Judge Valerie Caproni revealed that the prosecution’s most important witness, Dr. Robert Taub, is dealing with an unspecified medical situation. He may require surgery, and won’t be available to take the stand until later in the month.

The judge plans to go ahead with jury selection next week. But according to Newsday, opening statements won’t occur until April 23 at the earliest. Federal prosecutors have requested a two week delay.

Silver is accused in a $4 million alleged bribery and kickback scheme. His 2015 conviction was thrown out by an appeals court due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrowing of the public corruption statute. In the first trial, Taub testified that he received $500,000 in state grants when Silver was the powerful speaker of the State Assembly. He then referred cancer patients to a law firm, which paid Silver referral fees.

Also at Tuesday’s hearing, the judge rejected motions from the defense to toss out evidence regarding favors performed by Silver. The Supreme Court ruling requires prosecutors to show that any quid-pro-quo scheme by elected officials includes “official acts.” Judge Caproni ruled that prosecutors can introduce circumstantial evidence regarding favors by Silver as part of their larger case.

Silver, 74, was sentenced to 12 years in prison following the first trial. The retrial is expected to take up to six weeks.

Juror in First Silver Trial Says He Was Pressured to Convict

Sheldon Silver at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. November 2015.

Sheldon Silver at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. November 2015.

The retrial of former Lower East Side Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on federal corruption charges is set to begin next week.

Silver was convicted in a $4 million bribery and kickback scheme in 2015, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. But an appeals court threw out the conviction last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption under federal law.  Silver has not served any jail time.

This past week, the Daily News spoke with a juror in the original case, who said he regretted his decision to convict Silver, the former assembly speaker. Kenneth Graham, a taxi driver from the Bronx, said, “When you are on a jury, sometimes you gotta do what the rest of them do… I think they should set him free.”

During deliberations, Graham asked to be removed from the jury, saying he’d recently learned that the owner of the medallion cab he drove was a close friend of Silver. The judge, Valerie Caproni, rejected his request. Graham told the News last week that other jurors pressured him into voting to convict, but they he would have held out if given a second chance.

In a separate story, the Wall Street Journal looks at the prospects of a successful prosecution of Silver in the second trial. It will be watched nationwide as a test case, indicating how much federal law has been weakened in public corruption cases.

Prosecutors say Silver funneled state grants to a cancer researcher who then sent patients to a law firm, which paid Silver referral fees. In another alleged scheme, Silver was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for enacting tax breaks that helped a Manhattan real estate firm.

The evidence was enough for the jury to find Silver guilty of quid-pro-quo arrangements. But in a 2016 ruling in a Virginia case, the high court said “official acts” by an elected official had to include specific use of government power, rather than acts that could be perceived as “constituent services.”  Silver and Dean Skelos, the former majority leader in the State Senate, were both convicted at around the same time. Both verdicts were later invalidated. The Journal speculated about what to expect the second time around:

“People are looking to the Silver and Skelos retrials to understand whether and when prosecutors can secure convictions in cases beyond paradigmatic bribery,” said Kelly Kramer, a defense attorney at firm Mayer Brown who isn’t involved in either case… Legal experts say the former lawmakers’ second trials will likely be similar in substance to the first ones. Retrials typically favor the prosecution, which carries the burden of proof, said Daniel R. Alonso, a former federal prosecutor and current managing director at compliance risk-consulting firm Exiger. “They will have seen which witnesses play well with the jury and which don’t,” he said.

Silver’s trial is set for April 16.