Judge to Identify Mystery Figure in New York Case

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal judge on Friday morning will reveal the identity of a heretofore unidentified public figure tied to the tribulations of disgraced former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
     Since Silver’s conviction last year on charges of soliciting $6 million in bribes, speculation has swirled about the identity of a “Sealed Party A” discussed in a pre-trial motion.
     The New York Times and NBC Universal had both tried to gain access to the unredacted document, only to be rebuffed by Judge Valerie Caproni.
     “After the completion of the trial, the court will consider whether the filings and the oral argument record can be redacted and unsealed or should remain under seal,” she wrote.
     On Thursday, Caproni decided the press deserved access to the documents before Silver’s sentencing on May 3.
     “The public has a right to know the factors that are going into the and the facts behind a sentence,” she said.
     The 45-minute hearing sometimes took turns to the absurd, as Caproni and the attorneys painstakingly avoided identifying the people or allegations discussed in the documents.
     Chadbourne & Park attorney Abbe Lowell, who represents one of “Jane Does” contesting the disclosure, proposed using classified procedures to protect his client’s privacy.
     In speaking to Silver’s attorney, Caproni remarked at one point that the cloak-and-dagger discussions made her feel like a “gangster.”
     Playing the part, attorney Steven Molo quipped: “Do that thing for that guy over there.”
     “No, not that guy, the other guy,” Caproni joked along.
     Ultimately, Caproni felt that months of secrecy over the issue were a bridge too far.
     “My view is I have been running afoul of the First Amendment, which I feel very strongly about,” the judge added.
     Silver has not been charged with any illegal conduct involving the public figure, but Caproni said an incident described in the court documents involving the two was “of a piece” with the legislator’s “misuse of his public office.”
     “This was not one of his better moments,” she said.
     Silver resigned as speaker of the New York State Assembly early last year amid allegations that he abused his office – and his law license – to generate roughly $6 million in illicit outside income.
     Caproni noted that many viewed Silver as an “excellent” politician, and his defense attorneys highlighted his complex nature in sentencing documents.
     “The public has the right to know what all is on [Silver’s] plate,” she said.
     Silver and the undisclosed party have been fighting for months to prevent the contents of the documents from coming to light. Caproni originally had intended for the information to be released by mid-February, a date which got delayed to accommodate a Second Circuit appeal.
     The appellate court rejected that bid in late March.
     Caproni gave the sealed party one more chance to reverse her decision before the end of the day, but she said that the file would appear on the public record “unless someone stops me,” referring to the Second Circuit.

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