Sheldon Silver Retrial Averts SCOTUS Detour

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. The Second Circuit overturned Silver’s corruption conviction on July 13, saying the judge’s instructions on law weren’t consistent with a recent Supreme Court ruling. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Facing a retrial after toppling his first corruption conviction, disgraced former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver failed Tuesday to land a Supreme Court audience.

Federal prosecutors brought the underlying case against Silver almost three years ago to the day, accusing the 21-year head of the New York Legislature of soliciting $5 million in bribes through two no-show jobs at law firms.

With then U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara leading the charge, prosecutors shined a spotlight on an arrangement between Silver, the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg and a mesothelioma doctor whose research was funded with state money.

Silver never denied that he earned millions for referring the doctor’s asbestos patients to Weitz & Luxenberg; he simply argued that they were not illegal.

Though a federal jury found otherwise, the Second Circuit intervened before Silver could begin serving his 12-year sentence.

The Second Circuit found that Silver should be retried after the Supreme Court loosened bribery laws in McDonnell v. United States, a ruling that says politicians must provide more than access to be convicted of corruption.

Hoping to avoid that retrial scheduled for April 16, Silver argued that recent Supreme Court precedent legalizing paying for political access meant that he could not be prosecuted again.

The Supreme Court refused Tuesday, however, to take up the case. Per its custom, the court did not issue any comment on its denial of a writ of certiorari.

Silver’s attorneys Steven Molo and Joel Cohen vowed to press on as the case heads to its second trial.

“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court decided not to review the case at this time,” the attorneys said in a statement. “We intend to move forward and obtain a great result for our client.”  

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

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