The jury heard testimony from a key Albany lobbyist Friday in the federal corruption trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Zack Fink filed the following report.
Prosecutors have been busy outlining an alleged corruption scheme in which Sheldon Silver steered Glenwood Management, a large real estate company with business before the state, to a small law firm for tax work. Silver then collected referral fees. Prosecutors say this amounted to a quid-pro-quo.
Defense attorneys aren't disputing any of the details. They just maintain that the former Assembly speaker never broke the law.
Testifying Friday was lobbyist Brian Meara, who represents Glenwood Management. He explained how lobbying works for advancing legislation. He also testified that Silver had a longstanding relationship with Glenwood management that included drafting bills that were - if not necessarily helpful to Glenwood - certainly not as harmful as they could have been. Meara said Silver had a private relationship with Glenwood, while at the same time advocating publicly for tenant rights over issues like the rent regulations which need to be renewed every four years.
Meara said he had no knowledge of the fees Silver was receiving from the law firm, but did say he had concerns for Silver politically in terms of how it might look for him to be working so closely to keep Glenwood satisfied.
Throughout his trial, Silver has seemed in good spirits about the way things are going for him.
"I learned that from my mother a long time ago. Be kind to people, and friendly," Silver said.
Testimony continues on Monday. The government is expected to call two witnesses who work for the state Assembly. They are Lisa Reidm who works in compliance, and Michael Whyland, who served as Silver's spokesman and now works for current Speaker Carl Heastie.