Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's conviction on fraud, money laundering, and extortion was overturned Thursday.
The judge used a Supreme Court precedent involving former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, which more clearly defined the kind of conduct that could be considered corrupt while in office.
"The court talks about certain acts that Silver was shown to have taken that no longer can be considered official acts, such as having a meeting," attorney Joshua Colangelo-Bryan said.
"It is not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have reached the same conclusion if properly instructed, as is required by the law for the verdict to stand," Jose Cabranes of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision said in his decision.
Honest Service fraud statutes were questioned by the courts previously, and prior to deliberations in the Silver case, attorneys for Silver argued that the jury instructions would unfairly guarantee a conviction.
The evidence was strong. The Supreme Court changed the law. I expect Sheldon Silver to be retried and re-convicted.— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 13, 2017
Silver's legal team contended the former Assembly speaker did not accept more than $4 million in bribes and kickbacks while acting under an "official" capacity.
He was found guilty on all counts in 2015 on honest services fraud, among other charges, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison in May of last year.
"We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts," Steven Molo and Joel Cohen, the lawyers for Sheldon Silver, said in a statement.
In a statement, acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim says he will re-try the case.
"Although finding that the Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision issued after Silver’s conviction required a different legal instruction to the jury, the Second Circuit also held that the evidence presented at the trial was sufficient to prove all the crimes charged against Silver, even under the new legal standard," Kim's statement reads, in part.
Kim's statement goes on to say, "Although this decision puts on hold the justice that New Yorkers got upon Silver’s conviction, we look forward to presenting to another jury the evidence of decades-long corruption by one of the most powerful politicians in New York State history. Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied."
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was U.S. attorney when Silver was convicted, also weighed in on the decision.
SDNY will retry Silver. Evidence "was sufficient to prove all the crimes charged against Silver, even under the new legal standard." https://t.co/q00dzJ4g5Y— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 13, 2017
The 73-year-old Silver was allowed to remain free while conducting his appeal.
His conviction forced him to resign his post as Assembly speaker.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was measured in his reaction. "I understand the legal complexity, so let them fully litigate the case and then see where we wind up," Cuomo said.