In the wake of the arrest of Speaker Sheldon Silver, Democratic Assembly members held a press conference where they came out strongly in defense of their longtime leader. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
On scheduled session days, the assembly chamber is usually wide open. But on Thursday morning, as news of Speaker Sheldon Silver's arrest spread, the doors were locked and guarded.
Eventually, the chamber was opened up, but plans to convene and hold a session on the floor were canceled.
Republicans immediately called for the speaker to resign.
"I was quite surprised when he was elected again this year to begin with, but now, it's just beyond defense at this point," said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, whose district covers parts of Staten Island and the Bronx. "It is really just beyond time for him to step down as the speaker. Let justice take its course."
Democrats took a different tack. After conferring quietly in the hallways during the morning, they met as group behind closed doors for roughly two hours. When they emerged, they strongly backed their speaker.
"I'm continuing to support the speaker, and I would say that the members overwhelmingly, in the conversation that we just had, are continuing their support," said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle.
Only two Democrats publicly went against Silver: Mickey Kearns of Buffalo and Charles Barron of Brooklyn, both of whom have spoken out against the speaker before.
The rest of the Democrats stood up in support of Silver before they had even read the criminal complaint. They maintained that his arrest will not be a distraction for the important work they must do and the upcoming debate over the state budget.
"I do not think it's a distraction," Morelle said. "As I said, we have 106 members, all prepared to roll up their sleeves and do the work they are always do. I'm incredibly proud of this group."
Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos stopped short of calling on his negotiating partner to resign.
"I think that the Assembly has to make that decision," Skelos said. "He's their leader. They have to make that decision themselves."
Adding to an already uneasy mood in albany, U.S. attorney Preet Bharara seemed to indicate more arrests could be coming.
"You should stay tuned," Bharara said.
On Monday, Silver will be back at the capitol. He's expected to meet with members of his conference. Some of those members told NY1 privately that they at least want to hear from the speaker himself before making any further decisions about how long their support for him will continue.