Court Unseals Records on Sheldon Silver’s Affairs

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Unsealed Friday by a federal judge, the secret documents in Sheldon Silver’s corruption prosecution implicate the former New York state assemblyman in extramarital affairs with two women.
     The production includes a folder of 19 documents, plus a Feb. 23, 2016, opinion from U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni sealing the records.
     Silver was convicted last year on charges of soliciting $6 million in bribes, but Caproni’s order notes that the government had admitted evidence under seal prior to the trial “regarding two extramarital relationships engaged in by” Silver.
     Prosecutors had initially sought to use the affair as evidence of Silver’s character, writing in a motion that one his paramours “lobbied [Silver] on a regular basis on behalf of clients who had business before the state.”
     The same memo says Silver used his official position as Assembly speaker to recommend the second woman for a job with a state entity “over which he exercised a particularly high level of control.”
     Calling the claims “salacious — and unproven,” Silver’s attorney Steven Molo succeeded at suppressing the evidence before trial.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein denied playing to prurient interest at a closed-door hearing on Oct. 16.
     “We were sensitive in making the motion,” he said. “That is why we took pains in making the motion to point out that this is not just about having extramarital relationships, but it’s about the use of his official position in the course of those relationships to benefit the people with whom he was having those relationship.”
     Incredulous, Judge Caproni shot back with a line that she attributed to the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal.
     “People would say, ‘It’s not about the sex,’ and somebody would say, ‘It’s always about the sex,'” she quipped.
     Caproni had found the matter immaterial for the jury last year, but she agreed at a hearing Thursday that the alleged incidents had some — if “low” — relevance at sentencing.
     Specifically the evidence paints a more complete picture of an esteemed politician with a complicated legacy.
     “The public has the right to know what all is on [Silver’s] plate,” Caproni told the court.
     Though she redacted the released documents to protect the women involved, the judge commented Thursday that it may not have been possible to censor as much of the documents as Silver and the women wanted without impinging on the public interest.
     Prosecutors said they have an audio recording of Silver and one of the women hoping to avoid the scent of a reporter who had suspicions about their affair.
     “I don’t think he caught us,” Silver said on that tape, according to the memo.
     Speculation has long swirled about the identity of a “Sealed Party A” discussed in a pretrial motion, and The New York Times and NBC Universal had both tried to gain access to the unredacted document.
     The February opinion notes that Caproni agreed to seal the documents last year to ensure a fair trial, “especially given the likely media attention to the allegations that the defendant did not just engage in extramarital affairs but used his official position to provide professional benefits to the women.”
     Caproni noted that the documents also implicated “concerns about the privacy interests of the two women allegedly involved.”
     The government’s sealed motion alleged that Silver “used his official position to benefit each Jane Doe, who also worked in or with New York State government, for his own personal gain, echoing the abuse of public office for which the defendant stands convicted.”
     Silver faces sentencing on May 3.

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