A federal appeals court has overturned the corruption conviction of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, citing in its Thursday decision a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from past year that raised the standards prosecutors must use when they accuse public officials of wrongdoing.
In November 2015, the 73-year-old politician was found guilty of two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of honest services mail fraud, two counts of extortion under color of official right and one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions. The ruling clarified how juries should be instructed to view "an official act" in a federal bribery case.
The appeals court found that the trial judge's jury instructions should have included that definition.
Silver received two prison terms: 12 years for six criminal counts against him and 10 years on the seventh, to run concurrently.
In one alleged scheme, Silver performed favors for a doctor seeking research funding in exchange for the doctor's referral of mesothelioma patients to Silver's law firm. And Silver, analysts said, might have similar trouble.
Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School, said McDonnell might make it harder for prosecutors to retry the case because of this.
New Yorkers can be angry with the Supreme Court for its McDonnell ruling, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature for failing again to strengthen state laws to better address political corruption, she said.
"While we are disappointed by the Second Circuit's decision, we respect it, and look forward to retrying the case", Kim said in a statement, noting that the appeals court said it found sufficient evidence for a conviction even under the new legal definition. Bob McDonnell, whose own corruption conviction was overturned. Silver, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-1615. The question presented to us, however, is not how a jury would likely view the evidence presented by the Government. "The Supreme Court changed the law", Bharara wrote. "Silver's defense attorneys argued that this obvious corruption was simply business as usual in Albany, which the Supreme Court confirmed in McDonnell-defying the common sense of two NY juries and honest people everywhere", she said in a statement.
Kim said that although justice will be delayed, prosecutors do not expect justice to be denied.
Silver's lawyers argued during his appeal in March that prosecutors tried to charge him for carrying out legal, unofficial acts - such as setting up meetings and helping his cronies' kids land jobs.
The case against Silver was brought by Bharara, who also brought a number of corruption cases against politicians in Albany.
Taub sued Columbia to get his $300,000-a-year job back but was sacked again in April after an appeals court sided with the university. It is a pillar of our democracy.