Disgraced former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has begun the process of appealing his corruption conviction. In his appeal to reverse the decision, Silver’s lawyer is siting a case against Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell in which by a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court, McDonnell avoided ethic charges.
On Thursday, March 16, in Manhattan’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Steven Molo, the attorney representing Silver, used the determination made in the McDonnell case, which severely restricted the definition of corruption, in his arguments that he presented to a panel of three judges.
As previously reported by The Jewish Voice, the once-powerful political leader, who took advantage of his position to swindle $5.4 million in kickbacks and bribes, was originally scheduled to surrender back in August 2016 to begin serving his 12-year sentence. But Manhattan federal Judge Valerie Caproni, who handled Silver’s trial, decided to consent to his request to stay free on bail for a longer period. Caproni stated in her ruling that she believes Silver is guilty — even according to a new and much narrower definition of “official acts” constituting corruption established by a Supreme Court ruling in June.
In that case, the court voided the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who had accepted cash, loans and expensive gifts from a wealthy businessman seeking favors, ruling that just arranging meetings did not constitute official acts.
“As stated previously, this case differs from McDonnell because most of the official acts presented to the jury — the provision of state grants, approval of tax-exempt state financing, and voting on legislation — are undoubtedly official acts under McDonnell,” Caproni wrote in her ruling.
But she still granted Silver bail because of concerns that her instructions to the jury may have been inadequate under the new standards established by the high court.
“The charge given to the jury did not contradict McDonnell. Nevertheless, the jury charge did not include key language from McDonnell’s definition of official action,” Caproni further stated.
In one example, Caproni said she was negligent in not instructing the jury to determine that Silver accepted kickbacks in exchange for actions that did not include such mundane acts as meetings or hosting of events to discuss issues.
While no one can predict when the Manhattan appeals court will issue its ruling, Caproni’s decision almost surely lets Silver avoid jail for another year, an expert opined.
“It depends on the complexity of the briefing, but certainly it could take a year — potentially more,” stated Michael Bachner of the law firm Bachner & Associates. “Could it be quicker? I doubt it will be.”
In a central element of the corruption charges against him, Silver directed $500,000 in state funds to Dr. Robert Taub’s former mesothelioma research center at Columbia University. Taub in return referred asbestos exposure victims to Silver, who advised them to utilize the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which then paid the Assembly leader more than $3 million in kickbacks.
Under the court’s conditions, Silver can continue to reside in his Lower East Side home, but as of September 2016 he had to begin paying back part of the more than $7 million he owes in fines and forfeitures — meaning $5,846 per month.
By Hannah Hayes