Appeals court overturns Sheldon Silver’s corruption conviction

Prosecutors may retry the former speaker

Sheldon Silver (Credit: Getty Images)
Sheldon Silver (Credit: Getty Images)

Slick Shelley is a free man.

Sheldon Silver — the former New York State Assembly speaker accused of receiving illegal payments from real estate developers and others in exchange for political support — had his 2015 corruption conviction overturned Thursday.

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In its conclusion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan cited a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that allowed Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to escape ethics charges, the New York Times reported. The McDonnell decision narrowed the definition of what official conduct can result in a corruption prosecution, according to the newspaper. The court found that the instructions given to the jury by the judge at Silver’s trial were wrong, considering the new definition established by the McDonnell case. A jury that had been given accurate instructions may not have found Silver guilty, the court found, according to the Times.

In his 2015 conviction, Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He began his appeal in March.

According to evidence presented at his trial, the former Speaker was accused of two criminal schemes, one of which involved real estate developers. Prosecutors said he had received almost $4 million to make political decisions that benefitted a doctor at Columbia University as well as the Witkoff Group and Glenwood Management. They claimed Silver had the developers move taxes to a law firm that paid him fees. As a reward, he supported legislation they found favorable. [NYT]Miriam Hall