Sheldon Silver Found Guilty On All Counts In Corruption Trial

NEW YORK  — Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was found guilty on all counts Monday afternoon in his federal trial on charges of bribery, extortion and money laundering.

Silver was accused of receiving $5 million in improper fees from law firms for referrals. He now faces up to 130 years in prison.

Silver, who maintained he did nothing wrong and would be vindicated at trial, stepped down from his post after his January arrest, but he retains his Assembly seat.

His lawyer had argued that Silver, a lawyer, was entitled to accept payments for outside work.

The jury unanimously decided to convict Silver on the seven charges he faced.

Earlier Monday, a second juror asked to be excused from deliberations in the trial, but his request was denied.

The juror sent a note Monday to federal Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan. He said he just learned about a conflict of interest.

“I … no longer wish to participate as a juror on this case,” the note read. “I believe there is a conflict of interest that I just learned about. Thank you.”

The juror, a cab driver, discovered over the holiday weekend that he leases a taxi from a company whose owner is a friend or acquaintance of Silver and possibly attends the same synagogue.

The judge did not excuse him and sent him back with instructions.

Shortly after deliberations began last Tuesday, a juror begged in a note to be dropped from the case, saying other jurors were bullying her and “making me feel very, very uncomfortable.”

“My heart is pounding and my head feels weird,” she wrote. “I don’t feel like I can be myself right now! I need to leave!”

But she remained on the jury after the judge instructed jurors to be respectful to one another and to listen to and exchange views.

If a juror needs to be replaced, there are two remaining alternate jurors.

The three-week trial earlier wrapped up with Silver’s defense team calling no witnesses and Silver himself refusing to take the stand.

In closing arguments on Nov. 23, the jury heard the case boil down to two conflicting portrayals of the once-powerful Democrat: one as a greedy lawmaker who enriched himself with bribery and another as a seasoned politician who played by the rules regarding outside income.

“Why did Sheldon Silver do it? He did it for the money,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein repeatedly told the jury.

The evidence, he added, “shows that Sheldon Silver was a master of every form of deception — lying, keeping secrets, even splitting hairs.”

He also took aim at the defense’s accusation that overzealous prosecutors were trying to criminalize behavior that’s politics as usual in the Assembly.

“Let’s dispense with the nonsense … and let’s talk about the evidence, which Sheldon Silver tried desperately to keep secret for years,” he said.

Defense attorney Steven Molo countered by accusing the government of embracing a flawed theory of a circumstantial case. In their eyes, “If a fact gets in a way of that theory, you ignore it, and if you can’t ignore it, you twist it,” he said.

He added: “A lesser person would have folded, but Sheldon Silver is a fighter. He knows he did not commit a crime. There was no quid quo pro. He did not sell his office.”

In another Manhattan federal courtroom, the corruption trial resumed Monday for New York’s former Senate leader, Dean Skelos. Jurors in that trial are still hearing evidence related to charges that he engaged in extortion and solicited bribes to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for his son, who is his co-defendant. Both have pleaded not guilty.

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