Sheldon Silver and his legal team still say the former Assembly Speaker is not a crook. For the second time in three years, a jury in a Manhattan federal court wisely concluded otherwise.
To recap: Silver was tried on corruption charges and found guilty in November 2015. U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni sentenced him then to 12 years in prison. However, an appeals court last summer threw out that conviction, based on a Supreme Court precedent that narrowed the definition of what constitutes corruption by an official.
Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will also be retried this year, in June. An appeals court vacated his 2015 conviction on corruption charges after the high court ruling.
Federal prosecutors took Silver to trial again and the outcome was the same. It’s heartening to know that corruption by a government official is still against the law.
Silver illegally obtained nearly $4 million in exchange for government favors that benefited two real estate developers and a cancer researcher. At the end of a two-week trial, it took the jury just one day of deliberations to reach a guilty verdict on Friday.
The former Albany power broker remains free on bail until his sentencing on July 13. “You don’t seem like a bail jumping kind of guy,” Caproni said in court Friday, sounding like TV’s Judge Judy.
Silver’s lawyer, Michael Feldberg, vowed another appeal. “We are confident that at the end of this long battle we will prevail,” he said.
Silver said after leaving the courthouse, “Obviously, I’m disappointed at this point (but) I’m confident that the judicial process will play out in my favor.”
Appeals are based on legal issues, but turning to common sense, what possible reason for optimism can Silver cling to?
After Silver was convicted the first time, he wrote a letter to the court asking for mercy at sentencing.
“What I have done has hurt the Assembly, and New York, and my constituents terribly, and I regret that more than I can possibly express,” he wrote.
Those words of apology and contrition became a bit awkward when Silver was given a mulligan last year by the appeals court. He may want to hire a ghostwriter to craft a new approach for whatever statement he makes before sentencing this time.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Friday that Silver “took an oath to act in the best interests of the people of New York State.”
“As a unanimous jury found, he sold his public office for private greed.”
Silver, 74, is two years older than when Caproni first sentenced him, in May 2016. There’s no reason to believe the judge won’t again give him plenty of time to think about his misdeeds while he’s a guest of the state.