2nd Circ. Flips Sheldon Silver's Corruption Conviction

Sheldon Silver

Dick Dadey of Citizens Union said the Silver reversal reinforces the need for voters to approve a constitutional convention (a referendum that is on the statewide ballot this fall) to create fairer elections and tougher anti-corruption laws.

Silver's is the first high-profile corruption case affected by McDonnell v.

Steven Molo and Joel Cohen, Silver's lawyers, said in a statement, "We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts".

Prosecutors accused Silver of collecting close to $4 million of illegal fees for awarding state grants to a top cancer researcher, and steering real estate developers to a friend's law firm and supporting their interests on rent legislation. "Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied".

The judges wrote that most people would view those scenarios with "distaste", but they ruled that the instructions that the trial judge gave to the Silver jury were incorrect. The question presented to us, however, is not how a jury would likely view the evidence presented by the Government.

Silver's fall from grace was remarkable.

Prosecutors may retry Silver, a 73-year-old Democrat from Manhattan who served more than two decades as Assembly speaker.

He was arrested on January 22, 2015, however, one day after sharing the stage with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the State of the State address in Albany. Silver, once one of the state's most powerful politicians, was convicted of obtaining almost $4 million in payments in return for official actions that benefited others.

Evidence presented at his first trial showed that he received almost $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking official actions that benefited others.

To substantiate corruption charges, prosecutors must prove the person suspected of wrongdoing performed an official act in exchange for some benefit. "The Supreme Court changed the law", Bharara wrote. Overturning Mr. Silver's conviction based on the Judge's instructions to the jury, which occurred before the McDonnell ruling, does not redefine the facts in evidence. Using the new definition, the court said the jury might not have convicted Silver, once one of the most powerful political leaders in the state.

In that case, the justices explained that illicit payments must result in a formal exercise of power in a pending matter or proceeding in order to be considered an "official act" within the meaning of the anti-corruption statutes.

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