Federal appeals court overturns conviction of ex-NY assembly speaker

Kristen Gonzales
July 14, 2017

Robert McDonnell. It raised the standards prosecutors must use when they accuse public officials of wrongdoing.

The case was returned to the trial court for further proceedings. "Setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event (or agreeing to do so) - without more - does not fit that definition of an official act".

Silver was sentenced last May to 12 years, but had been allowed to stay out of prison while the case was on appeal.

Silver was convicted November 30, 2015 of honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering in one of the most prominent corruption trials in New York City in decades. In that case, the high court unanimously vacated the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who accepted lavish gifts from campaign supporters and donors while in office.

That language of the 48-page ruling, which includes six pages of appendices, echoes what the Supreme Court's Chief Justice John Roberts said of McDonnell. It's not that Silver isn't a crook, it's that the rules regarding jury instructions had changed. "I think given the importance of the case, in the history of NY and the long litany of corruption that's been exposed in Albany its very important for the US attorney to try this case again".

Silver, a Democrat who represented the Lower East Side in the assembly for almost four decades, had been convicted on seven counts of bribery and corruption last May.

Sheldon Silver
Sheldon Silver. AP

"Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied", he added.

Silver's and Dean Skelos' convictions were among the biggest prosecutions by Kim's predecessor, Preet Bharara, who made fighting public corruption a priority.

"We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts", Silver's attorneys, Steven Molo and Joel Cohen, said in a statement. Indeed, the court said the definition of "official act" that jurors received at the Silver trial was way too broad, since it encompassed "any action taken or to be taken under color of official authority".

What the court pointedly did not say, however, is that Silver didn't do the things that the evidence clearly proved.

"I don't know what people will find and argue about this", Cuomo said in Buffalo when asked if the decision would raise the noise level surrounding ethics reform in the Legislature again.

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