April 30, 2018 / 10:03 AM / 25 days ago

Ex-New York Assembly Speaker Silver faces second corruption trial

NEW YORK, April 30 (Reuters) - Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is expected to go to trial on federal corruption charges for the second time on Monday, seven months after an appeals court threw out his earlier conviction and 12-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors and Silver’s lawyers are scheduled to make their opening statements to jurors before U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan. Silver has pleaded not guilty to charges of honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering.

Michael Feldberg, a lawyer for Silver, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors have said that Silver, 74, funneled state money to a prominent cancer researcher, who in turn referred asbestos patients to Silver’s law firm. They also said he steered two real estate developers to a friend’s law firm while supporting their interests on rent legislation.

In exchange, Silver raked in as much as $4 million in bribes and kickbacks, prosecutors have claimed.

Silver was found guilty by a jury in November 2015. In May 2016, Caproni sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Last July, however, a New York federal appeals court threw out the conviction. The court ruled that the jury had received improper instructions in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision overturning the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

The Supreme Court had found in that decision that routine political activities such as arranging meetings or reaching out to public officials were not “official acts” that could be prosecuted under federal bribery law.

Silver, a Democrat, represented Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and was Assembly speaker from 1994 to 2015.

Along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, he was one of the “three men in a room” with effective power to dictate New York legislative priorities.

Skelos was convicted of corruption charges in December 2015 and sentenced to five years in prison. His conviction was overturned last year as well, for similar reasons as Silver’s, and prosecutors have said they would try him again. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York Editing by Susan Thomas)

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