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NY Assembly Speaker Arrested On Public Corruption Charges

silNew York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday on public corruption charges and accused of using his position as one of the most powerful men in Albany to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income.

The 70-year-old Silver was taken into custody around 8 a.m. at the FBI’s New York City office, FBI spokesman Peter Donald confirmed. Silver faces five counts, including conspiracy and bribery charges.

In a criminal complaint, authorities said Silver abused power. “There is probable cause to believe Silver obtained about $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position,” the complaint said.

Silver’s attorney, Joel Cohen, called the charges “meritless.”

“Mr. Silver looks forward to responding to them — in court — and ultimately his full exoneration,” Cohen said in a statement.

Silver was expected to make a court appearance later Thursday.

The arrest sent shock waves through New York’s Capitol as a new legislative session has begun, and it came just a day after Silver shared the stage with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara took over the files of New York’s Moreland anti-corruption commission after Cuomo closed it in April. He said in October that investigations into Albany’s pay-to-play politics are continuing.

The commission and Bharara were looking into lawmakers’ earnings outside their state salaries. Silver’s outside income has long been a subject of discussion and controversy. Last year, he reported making up to $750,000 for legal work, mostly with the trial firm of Weitz & Luxenberg.

When the commission began to investigate public corruption in 2013, including outside income earned by Silver and other state legislators, “Silver took legal action and other steps to prevent the disclosure of such information,” the complaint said.

As speaker of the Democrat-controlled Assembly, Silver is one of the most influential people in New York state government. Along with the Senate majority leader and the governor, he plays a major role in creating state budgets, laws and policies in a system long-criticized in Albany as “three men in a room.”

Silver has gone toe-to-toe with five New York governors — from the late Mario Cuomo to his son Andrew Cuomo — since early 1994, when he was selected Assembly speaker to replace the ailing Saul Welprin.

Silver was first elected to the Assembly in 1976, representing a district on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he was born and still lives with his wife, Rosa.

A graduate of Brooklyn Law School and a practicing attorney, Silver has championed liberal causes in the Legislature, where he has used his position as a powerbroker to support teachers, trial lawyers and civil service unions.

But he has also seen more than his share of corruption and scandal in his chamber. Several Assembly members have been hit in recent years with criminal charges ranging from taking bribes to using campaign funds for personal expenses.


12 Responses

  1. for the life of me I can’t understand why he has to wear a black hat under these circumstances. I am not implying he is guilty but the media outlets are going to have a field day with his dress code.

  2. 1. It is interesting that a Democratic US Attorney obtained the indictment.

    2. He’s basically charged with a ” denying honest services” offense that might not survive appellate review. This is an area where the Justice Department has been overrreaching as of late. They don’t appear to be alledging a classical “quid pro quo” sort of bribe.

    3. Given that he is leader of one house of a legislature in which the other house is controlled by the other party, and that for most of the time he was Speaker the governor (who controls the executive branch) was a Republican, and that he is also charged for taking bribes pertaining to city programs in a city that had a Republican mayor – one might be a bit skeptical.

    4. If it is illegal for a politician to be a “rainmaker” for a firm, they will be making mass arrests. It is legal for a politician to work for a lawfirm and that work is typically attracting clients, not the nitty gritty work of lawyering.

  3. We never even see Sheldon Silver in the newspapers with a Yarmulke and all of a sudden he’s wearing a black hat worn by chareidim. We don’t need more attention to this chillul Hashem.

    He’s always acted as being invincible and created enemies. A little humility would have made him less of a target.

  4. To #2 & 3:

    Yes its one last chance for him to stick it to the Chareidim despite unzera Organization at 42 Broadway, amongst others, kissing up to him for over 40 years! Never said a word to him when he introduced Gay Marriage to the assembly! Dov Hikind is the only one who stood up for Kvod Shomayim on the floor of the Assembly and defended Traditional Marriage! Some of those people at 42 Broadway are so attached to Shelly, they will have to be surgically removed. Altz faar gelt! The chickens have come home to roost! What a major Chillul Hashem of epic proportions!

  5. To Akuperma:

    There’s nothing wrong with being a “rainmaker” as you call it, but, as a State Assemblyman, you have TO REPORT the income on the disclosure forms.

    I wonder if he reported the income to the IRS. They could be coming for him next.

  6. #8 – he isn’t charged with tax evasion, or violating the reporting law. He’s charged with bribery and not providing honest services.

  7. The government has been after Sheldon for years. As an orthodox Yid, being the second most powerful man in NY is a position that is mu’od le’puronos. This is clear anti-Semitism and we should all unite in tefilloh.

  8. excellent point #11, they are targeting him the same way they targeted the last yid governer eliot spitzer on trumped up charges and forced him to resign over some minor stuff. and they also went after anthony weiner too just cuz hes jewish. it clearly has nothing to do with any of the crimes or moral failures these paragons of morality might have had.

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