Court overturns Sheldon Silver conviction

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver exits the Manhattan U.S. District Courthouse in New York City U.S

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver exits the Manhattan U.S. District Courthouse in New York City U.S. Thomson Reuters

"Given the teachings of the Supreme Court in McDonnell", Cabranes added, "and the particular circumstances of this case, we simply can not reach that conclusion". "The public does not elect people with the expectation that they will use their office for personal enrichment". "Setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event (or agreeing to do so) - without more - does not fit that definition of an official act".

But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan also said prosecutors had "sufficient" evidence to prove the honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering counts on which Silver was convicted in November 2015, and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Sheldon Silver
Sheldon Silver. AP

Former Speaker Silver is not the first legislative leader to see his corruption conviction overturned on appeal.

Once among New York's most powerful politicians, Silver was accused of collecting close to $4 million of illegal fees for awarding state grants to a prominent cancer researcher, and steering two real estate developers to a friend's law firm and supporting their interests on rent legislation. Bob McDonnell clarifying the definition of official misconduct meant jury instructions were "erroneous" when Silver was found guilty. Rather, the jury was told that an "official act" is "any action taken or to be taken under color of official authority".

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The instructions given to the jury in the Silver prosecution did not follow this construction. Federal prosecutors could decide to retry the case.

But the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office has vowed to retry Silver, and several experts interviewed by the Daily News said he could still wind up behind bars.

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"Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied", he added.

"We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts", Silver's attorneys, Steven Molo and Joel Cohen, said in a statement. But Silver's lawyers argued that the U.S. Supreme Court in the McDonnell case defined official misconduct as "a decision or action on a "question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy" involving "a formal exercise of governmental power". He said lawmakers have taken no steps to rein-in their outside income or empower independent prosecutors to go after corruption - even in the wake of the conviction of Silver and ex-Long Island Sen. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), who replaced Silver, said, "As I have said we must respect the judicial process".

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