Guilty Verdict in Silver Corruption Trial Sends Shockwaves Across Political Landscape
In a decision that sent shock waves across the state’s political landscape, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on seven counts of federal corruption. NY1's Zack Fink covered the trial and was in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
After a two-and-half week trial, it took a jury roughly 12 hours over three days to come back with a verdict that likely ends Sheldon Silver’s career and sends him behind bars.
Because he was convicted of multiple felonies, Silver was automatically removed from the Assembly. His colleagues forced him to resign the Speakership earlier this year when he was arrested.
"Never before have we seen a former leader of the legislature be convicted so convincingly as we have today," said Dick Dadey of the good government group, Citizen's Union.
Silver was convicted on four counts of honest services fraud, two counts of extortion and one count of money laundering.
At the heart of the government's case were two schemes in which a jury found Silver set up an illegal quid-pro-quo.
The jury found that legal referral fees Silver was receiving amounted to kickbacks in exchange for official action.
Reformers say the message here is unmistakable —Albany needs to get serious about change.
"We have fired at the problem and missed," Dadey said. "We have not addressed the issue. We have said that we've increased transparency, stepped up enforcement. All good things, but we have not gone far enough."
The deliberations were not entirely smooth. Two jurors asked to be removed from the case.
Monday morning, a taxi driver on the jury said he had a conflict since his boss knew Silver.
And another juror asked to be excused on the first day of deliberations.
"Well, they disagreed with what I thought they should look at," she said. "Everyone else had their opinion. But at that time I did not feel they were respecting my opinion. I just felt a lot of pressure."
In both cases, the jurors were instructed to continue deliberations.
In a statement after the verdict, Governor Andrew Cuomo said:
"Today, justice was served. Corruption was discovered, investigated, and prosecuted, and the jury has spoken. With the allegations proven, it is time for the Legislature to take seriously the need for reform."
Silver was found guilty of enriching himself through two corruption schemes, netting more than $4 million. He faces up to 20 years in prison.