ALBANY – Sheldon Silver engaged in two extramarital affairs while serving as the Assembly speaker, federal prosecutors alleged in court papers unsealed Friday morning.
Neither woman was identified, but one is a lobbyist who had business before the state while he was head of the Assembly and the other Silver helped get a state job.
The documents were unsealed at the request of the New York Times and NBC Universal, and they come in advance of Silver’s May 3 sentencing on his federal corruption charges conviction.
Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who was the Assembly leader from 1994 until he stepped down in early 2015, sought to block the sealed documents’ release.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, according to the newly released court filings, wants to be able to use the information in the sentencing phase of the proceeding.
Silver faces a choice as he tries to convince a judge for a lenient sentence, the federal prosecutors state in court papers.
“Should the defendant introduce, either through cross-examination or through his own witnesses, reputation or opinion testimony regarding his good moral character,” then prosecutors should be able to cross-examine those witnesses to find out if they knew Silver was in a romantic relationship with the two women “and used his official position to benefit them.’’
Silver’s affair with the lobbyist, prosecutors said, was “highly probative of the defendant’s integrity, ethics, honesty and truthfulness.’’
The papers say the lobbyist directly lobbied Silver on behalf of clients who had business before the state.
In the affair with the other woman, Silver “used his official position” to recommend her for a job at an agency – the name of which was redacted – “over which he exercised a particularly high level of control.”
The Assembly speaker does not have “particularly high” control over state agencies, except generally the state Education Department, which is not controlled by the governor. The Assembly Democrats, through selections to the unpaid Board of Regents, has considerable influence over the Education Department.
In a heavily redacted portion of the documents, there is a passage about “the size and composition of the Assembly versus the Senate” and that Silver’s “selected candidates were elected” to serve on some undisclosed panel or board. Such characterizations are often used to describe the Regents and education agency.
Prosecutors also said they should be able to introduce evidence about Silver’s affairs if he “introduces evidence that he is or has a good reputation as a family man, or about the longevity of his marriage or his commitment to his marriage.’’
A lawyer for Silver did not return a call seeking comment.
U.S. District Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni ordered the documents to be unsealed in Manhattan Friday morning. Bharara filed the documents last October, but the sides have been in a legal fight ever since about their public release. Bharara wanted the court papers released.
While the government “does not seek” to introduce evidence about Silver’s affairs, the prosecutors want to use evidence about the affairs during the sentencing phase if there is testimony offered about Silver’s moral character or integrity.
The court papers said it has a recording of Silver and one of the women that leads the government to have “a good faith belief” that the two were engaged in an affair at the time. The recording includes a conversation between Silver and the woman discussing “their desire to conceal the truth about their relationship from reporters inquiring about extramarital relationships and how they should handle such inquiry.”
The papers state the unidentified lobbyist was given “special access” to Silver, and that the woman complained to Silver that she was not being treated well so she had to take up a matter directly with Silver.
The papers say Silver had two cellphones: one used for state business and the other used “principally” for calls the documents suggests was with one of the women.
Silver is appealing his conviction.