Sheldon Silver guilty in multimillion dollar corruption case
The ex-speaker of the New York state Assembly Sheldon Silver was found guilty on Friday of selling his office for $4 million in kickbacks — affirming his 2015 conviction on the same charges that had been overturned on appeal.
A jury of seven women and five men found Silver, 74, guilty of all seven counts against him, including two counts of honest services mail fraud and money laundering.
The jury reached the verdict after slightly more than one day of deliberation following a week-and-a-half-long trial that included 26 witnesses and dozens of exhibits.
He faces as much as 130 years in prison when sentenced.
The verdict is a crushing blow to Silver, who was once one of the three most powerful men in New York along with the governor and Senate majority leader.
In 2015 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, which his lawyers argued was a death sentence for their client, who was also fighting prostate cancer at the time.
Silver was convicted of two schemes that earned him a whopping $4 million in kickbacks over a decade through legal fees. The first scheme involved favors for a prominent cancer doctor who sent him lucrative referrals of cancer patients looking to sue asbestos companies. The second scheme involved two real estate companies that sent their tax business to a lawyer who then shared his fees with Silver.
Witnesses in the first scheme included the cancer doctor, Robert Taub, who testified that he sent Silver his valuable mesothelioma patients because he wanted the powerful politician to start supporting his research into the rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.
Silver earned $3 million in referral fees off Taub’s patients and in return gave him $500,000 in taxpayer money to support his research, as well as help finding jobs for Taub’s adult children.
Taub testified that there was no explicit agreement between the men, but prosecutors argued that Silver knew that what he was doing was wrong because when Taub called him in 2014 to tell him the feds were asking questions, Silver said, “Did you tell them anything.”
“‘Did you tell them anything?’ That’s what Silver cared about — making sure Dr. Taub, his golden goose, kept his mouth shut,” prosecutor Tatiana Martins said on closing arguments.
“Sheldon Silver had abused his office for profit and he knew it,” she said.
Witnesses in the real estate scheme included Silver’s childhood friend Jay Arthur Goldberg, who testified that he split fees he received from two real estate developers with the powerful politician because Silver sent their business his way.
Goldberg, who grew up with Silver on the Lower East Side, said his childhood pal assured him their arrangement was aboveboard.
“I said, ‘Is this all right, Shelly?’” Goldberg told the jury.
“Of course,” he said Silver responded. “I’m a lawyer.”
The companies, the Witkoff Group and Glenwood Management, also lobbied Silver over their business interests, including legislation.
Steven Witkoff, founder of real estate firm the Witkoff Group, testified that he didn’t know of Silver’s “unseemly” arrangement with Goldberg until 2015 when Goldberg broke the news to him.
An executive of Glenwood testified that his firm also didn’t know Silver was getting a cut of fees they paid Goldberg until 2011, when a lobbyist pal of Silver’s broke the news.
That prompted Glenwood to demand Silver sign what prosecutors dubbed a “secret side letter” memorializing their arrangement.
“While he was negotiating the rent laws, Sheldon Silver was secretly on retainer to that developer,” prosecutor Martins told the jury.
“Even if there was no other evidence in the real estate scheme — this secret retainer alone tells you that Sheldon Silver is guilty.”
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