The federal corruption trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is getting underway next week. Zack Fink filed the following report.
Sheldon Silver’s corruption trial will take place over the next several weeks and will overlap with the federal corruption trial of Dean Skelos, which will be only a few blocks away in downtown Manhattan.
Both trials cap a remarkable year in Albany that saw the leaders in both houses resign their leadership posts after authorities charged them with federal crimes.
“I think the entire New York political system over the past several generations is on trial,” said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus at Hunter College. “Because what is on trial is business as usual.”
Among the charges are that Silver steered public money to a cancer research facility in exchange for referrals of patients suffering from mesothelioma. Silver then reportedly received referral fees from Weitz and Luxemburg, the law firm where he served as “of counsel.”
It’s a complicated case, but some experts say it may not be too challenging to prove that there were illegal quid-pro-quos.
“My take is that Shelly Silver is in a lot of trouble,” said Dan Wise, who writes the court blog wiselawny.com.
Wise said the judge in the Silver case, Valerie Caproni, will set the tone for the trial.
“First of all, this judge is a former chief of the criminal division in the eastern district of New York,” Wise said. “In some of the pretrial motions, she has issued rulings that have been, in my view, very, very favorable to the prosecution.”
For example, Caproni agreed to allow evidence of legal campaign contributions from Glenwood Management, the company at the heart of a second set of allegations against Silver in which he is accused of receiving kickbacks. Glenwood has given generously to Silver and other elected officials.
Silver resigned as state Assembly speaker earlier this year after fellow Democrats forced him out. Silver remains in the Assembly and represents Lower Manhattan, but he must resign if convicted.
“I think this case will get tried in the courtroom, and ultimately, I’ll be vindicated in this case,” Silver said on October 16.