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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Former political boss faces arraignment in New York

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver faces arraignment on bribery charges that spurred his resignation from his role as one of New York’s foremost political powerbrokers.

The Democrat was due in a Manhattan federal court Tuesday in a case that has rocked the statehouse power structure. Accused of illegally profiting off his outsize influence, Silver has said he’s confident he will be cleared.

“Our client is not guilty. We can now begin to fight for his total vindication,” lawyers Joel Cohen and Steve Molo said when Silver was indicted last week on honest service fraud and extortion charges. The attorneys declined to comment further Monday ahead of Silver’s arraignment.

Silver resigned as speaker after his January arrest, but he retains the lower Manhattan assembly seat he has held for nearly 40 years.

During 21 years as Assembly speaker, Silver played a major part in creating state budgets and policies and was known as a backroom master who could single-handedly decide the fate of legislation.

His arrest roiled Albany, where 28 legislators have stepped down because of criminal or ethical issues during the past 15 years. Four others, including Silver, remain in office while fighting charges.

The case centers on law firm “referral fees” that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says were actually kickbacks to Silver, 70, who is an attorney. Prosecutors say he did no legal work for the firms but instead did such favors as lining up state grants that helped a firm’s business.

Silver has said he did work on cases.


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