New York – Legal Experts: Silver Jury Convicted Ex-NY Speaker Despite No ‘Smoking Gun’

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    Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver speaks as he exits Manhattan federal court following his conviction on corruption charges, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)New York – There was no star witness, no damning testimony, no briefcase stuffed with cash that sealed the fate of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who for 20 years was one of the state’s most powerful politicians.

    Instead, legal experts say, a jury convicted the Manhattan Democrat of corruption Monday based a slow drip of circumstantial evidence that painted the Manhattan Democrat as a political insider who profited from his public service.

    Silver’s appeal is likely to focus on the lack of a smoking gun. The jury’s decision to convict comes as poll after poll show the public has a low opinion of its representatives in Albany.

    “I still don’t think the government proved he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Albany Law School Professor Vincent Bonventre said. “I do think what they proved was what he did was unseemly and sleazy. And the defense, by saying ‘this is just Albany politics,’ I think that just further enraged the jury.”

    The jury convicted Silver on charges that he traded favors for $4 million in kickbacks from a cancer researcher and real estate developers. His defense argued the payments were for legitimate legal referrals.

    Silver plans an appeal that likely will focus on whether prosecutors showed a direct connection between Silver’s actions as a lawmaker and his income. In many similar cases, prosecutors have a witness or a document explicitly describing what a defendant would do in exchange for an inducement, according to Albany defense attorney E. Stewart Jones, who successfully defended ex-Senate Leader Joe Bruno when the GOP lawmaker was acquitted of corruption charges last year.

    “That’s the central issue, whether they proved a quid pro quo,” said Jones, using the Latin term used to describe illegal ‘this-for-that’ schemes. “When you get right down to it, it was a purely circumstantial case.”

    Serving in the Legislature is considered a part-time job, leaving lawmakers free to pursue outside employment. That can cause problems when, as in Silver’s case, they accept payments from companies or individuals with business before the state.

    “This where it gets gray very quickly,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “You’re a lawyer in private practice and someone is trying to get a bill passed in Albany. They happen to retain you as their lawyer. Now maybe they retained you as their lawyer because you’re very good … or maybe they engaged you because you’re a legislator and they really want you to help pass their legislation. That’s the gray that’s always existed.”

    Lawmakers have so far resisted calls to restrict their outside income, but it’s likely to be one of several proposals up for consideration when they reconvene next month.

    Silver won’t be among them. He lost his seat automatically when he was convicted and now faces decades in prison. But longtime observers and critics of the Legislature’s failure to address corruption say the lesson of his conviction must be remembered come January.

    Polls show voters are increasingly dissatisfied with the response to a wave of corruption that has seen 30 legislators leave office because of criminal or ethical allegations since 2000. A Quinnipiac Poll from September found that only about a quarter of voters believe current lawmakers are capable of ending corruption, and about half say all current office holders should be voted out of office.

    “When the leader of a ‘respected body’ is convicted on seven felony counts of corruption and fraud, it is time for the people to question the premise that it is a ‘respected body,'” said Assemblyman Michael Kearns, D-Buffalo. “The New York state Assembly is sick and in need of healing.”

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    20 COMMENTS

    1. I can’t stand the guy, but I admit that this is basically just a case of a jury wanting to “get the pols” and willing, therefore, to believe whatever the prosecution said.

    2. Good luck in getting anyone normal to run. In todays day in age you gotto be insane to run for public office. The DA like Berraha doesn’t let you live. they will breath down your backs every second. And yes natrually since all Albany is not a full time job you will do another job. Now what else can you do part time? Only something thats connected to your Albany job. Now who will want to do that after Silver. And its silly to argue so pay them full time salaries. For what ? There is no full time work to be done. Juts pay then to twiddle thier thumbs?

    3. As much as I feel terrible for Shelly, his family and friends, he is not the first person this happened to. They should do their research and see how many people are in this category. In fact most people plead out specifically to avoid this, regardless how innocent they may be. The juridical system is not kind to people that try to prove their innocence. For all those that say he will win on appeal,
      I hope so, but it just takes a very long time while he is still incarcerated. Any which way you twist and turn it, he will spend time behind bars and the ultimate question will be is just how long.

    4. Justice in the US is horrible.
      Beyond reasonable doubt?! What does that mean besides for OJ Simpson

      I wish he wins the appeal.

      They pick a few idiots who have zero legal knowledge in legal and corruption issues. It all depends if the prosecutor said it well and he delivered his closing arguments.
      What a joke

    5. If Shelly had retired when he should have, he could be enjoying his retirement in the Golden Sunshine state. Instead he will be spending his forced retirement in a Rusty Jail Cell.

      • You are correct but maybe the jury found him guilty – and he isn’t?

        There is no way those jurors fully understood the difference between whats legal and illegal verse whats morally correct or incorrect. Its a very fine line. And you need smart educated people to determine that.

          • “Amazing how the bloodsucking haters all,come out of their holes to comment when this happens!”

            We’re bloodsuckers? Shelly sucked the blood out of the taxpayers of NY!!!! Why blame us? He’s the one with the millions in his pocket and 2 thousand dollar suits.

    6. As a lawyer, Silver should have known that “When you go to court, you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.” (quote from Norm Crosby)

    7. I attended the trial and was there on Monday when the jury came out with their guilty verdicts.
      The prosecution had lousy and weak evidence, and the judge was very nasty to Silvers defense attorney. The government star witness Dr. Taub clearly said they was no illegal exchange, I’m very surprised.
      However, I think any public figure is guilty the first second he walks into a court room. Any jury will view a politician as corrupt one day one.
      I also feel that any public figure will always get favors from the people around them ( because they need to favor in return one day) it’s just the nature of a public position, it’s been this way since the world was created and it will always be this way. People kiss up to ppl that have power.
      Eg. When we need to put our kids in Yeshiva we will kiss up to the right ppl way in advance. I’m not endorsing any wrongdoings, however, I feel politicians and public figures are in a very vulnerable position and can easily be caught with something, because ppl are always kidding up to them for their own agendas.

    8. In 1991, Mel Miller was NY Assembly Speaker. He was convicted and resigned in disgrace. HOWEVER, in 1993, on appeal, his conviction was overturned.
      In 2009, Joe Bruno, speaker of the NY Senate, was found guilty. HOWEVER, in 2014, his conviction was overturned.
      Shelly Silver will have his conviction OVERTURNED. You can bet your bottom dollar on it.

    9. Why is it when a Yid goes to trial, posters here claim he is innocent? When a goy is tried for the same offense, the posters want the book thrown at him. Preet did a remarkable job and took this ganif off the Albany payroll. More to come shortly. When Cuomo is indicted and tried, I bet everyone will say he deserved it because he’s not a Yid.

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