Sheldon Silver Convicted on All Counts

MANHATTAN (CN) – Taking just a day to deliberate the bribery retrial of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a federal jury returned a guilty-on-all-counts verdict Friday afternoon.

In this May 3, 2016, file photo, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is surrounded by media as he leaves the court in New York where he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges. Silver was convicted on all counts in his retrial on Friday, May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The seven counts of conviction include charges of extortion and honest-services fraud that will likely carry a significant prison spell for the 74-year-old disgraced politician.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni had sentenced Silver to a 12-year term the last time a federal jury threw the book at him, before Silver’s verdict had been overturned in the wake of a Supreme Court precedent weakening federal anti-bribery statutes.

That case, McDonnell v. Virginia, effectively legalized paying for political access, but a second jury has now found that Silver provided more than handshakes to those who paid him more than $3 million in bribes.

Silver will be sentenced again on July 13 at noon.

Since the case began in 2015, the facts of Silver’s case have been mostly uncontested.

He made his millions sending mesothelioma patients referred to him by Columbia University physician Robert Taub to the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which specializes in asbestos cases.

The politician also made $800,000 via two real estate schemes.

Silver’s attorney Michael Feldberg argued that this income had been earned legitimately. New York State has a part-time Legislature. Feldberg acknowledged to a jury that Silver’s using his clout to earn side income may be “unseemly,” but the attorney insisted it’s not illegal.

Both appeared to be ready to prolong the criminal litigation that has entered its third year.

“There are significant legal issues, challenging legal issues, that we look forward to presenting on appeal,” Feldberg said.

Defiantly optimistic, Silver added: “We are confident that at the end of this long battle we will prevail.”

Toppled from his 21-year reign over the New York State Assembly, a year shy of the record, Silver’s career had been ended with charges brought by ex-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“Great work by the SDNY team once again,” Bharara tweeted upon hearing the verdict.

Now the host of the podcast “Stay Tuned,” Bharara’s crackdown on New York corruption shook both branches of the Legislature and the governor’s office. The tabloids dubbed his crusade “Albany on Trial.”

All three cases netted convictions, two of which had been sent to retrial by the McDonnell precedent. The Silver verdict demonstrated for observers that the weakened corruption laws still have teeth.

Current U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, now in Bharara’s role in the Southern District, nodded to the long road to this day.

“I commend the career prosecutors of our Office’s Public Corruption Unit, whose determination in securing this important conviction fittingly underscores the importance of pursuing cases against corrupt politicians, no matter the difficulty,” Berman said.”One of the most worthy endeavors of this Office is combating public corruption,” he continued. “We will continue to do so with the independence and resolve the Southern District is known for and the citizens of New York so rightly deserve.

Immediately after Silver’s second verdict, one of Bharara’s other targets pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud: Peter Galbraith Kelly, an executive from the energy company Competitive Power Ventures.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Kelly said as he teared up in court. “My decisions were the greatest mistakes of my life. I will forever regret the horrific impact they had on my family, CPV and others.”

Prosecutors say that Kelly provided a no-show job to the wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former deputy Joseph Percoco, who was convicted of corruption.

“I’m truly ashamed of the judgment that I exercised,” the disgraced executive added.

Kelly’s conviction count carries a 5-year maximum sentence, but his plea deal with prosecutors calls for a prison term of up to 1.5 years plus a fine of up to $50,000.

Prosecutors have not accused Cuomo of any wrongdoing.

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