Former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has begun his appeal to reverse a quid-pro-quo corruption convictions, and his lawyer is citing a unanimous Supreme Court decision that allowed Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to escape ethics charges.
Silver’s attorney, Steven Molo, relied on the McDonnell case — which drastically narrowed the definition of corruption — when arguments began before a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Thursday, the New York Times reported.
The former Speaker faces up to 12 years in prison for two criminal schemes, one of which involved real estate developers. Silver received nearly $4 million to make political maneuvers that benefited a doctor at Columbia University as well as the Witkoff Group and Glenwood Management . Silver arranged to have the developers move taxes to a law firm that shared its fees with the elected official. In exchange, he supported legislation they found favorable.
Glenwood’s Richard Runes testified that – for a time – the payments to Silver were kept secret from them, and when they were discovered the company feared retribution if executives cut ties with the lawmaker.
Silver was convicted of honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion. He’s free on bail while he appeals his case.
The judge in the case noted that Silver took a “number of official acts — most obviously passing legislation and approving state grants and tax-exempt financing — as part of a quid pro quo, but there remained a “substantial question” on whether the court’s jury instructions were valid in light of the McDonnell ruling. That ruling found that official action must involve formal governmental actions or decisions, and not simply making phone calls or setting up meetings. [NYT] — James Kleimann