Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had his 2015 corruption conviction overturned.
The speaker, who was considered one of the most-powerful men in New York politics — received nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking official actions that benefited others, according to the evidence presented at his trial.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan concluded, in light of the Supreme Court’s narrower definition, that the jury instructions given by the judge in Mr. Silver’s trial were erroneous and that a properly instructed jury might not have convicted him, according to the New York Times.
“We recognize that many would view the facts adduced at Silver’s trial with distaste,” Judge José A. Cabranes wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit. “The question presented to us, however, is not how a jury would likely view the evidence presented by the government. Rather, it is whether it is clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a rational jury, properly instructed, would have found Silver guilty.”
Silver, a 73-year-old Democrat who served for more than two decades as Assembly Speaker was convicted on November 30th, 2015.
In a statement from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R, C, I – Canandaigua) he called the courts ruling disappointing and proof that corruption remains alive in state politics.
“This is a disappointing and embarrassing day in New York. Sheldon Silver was tried and convicted of fraud, extortion and money laundering. If his actions weren’t illegal, it’s hard to imagine what is,” he said.
“The average New York household makes $59,000 a year. Sheldon Silver made $4 million by putting his office up for sale. A jury of his peers found him guilty of abusing his position. This is exactly why the public has absolutely no trust in elected officials or state government. He should be retried; justice must prevail,” Kolb added in a statement.
For some, this ruling gives new energy to those fighting for reforms in New York State.
“For years, Albany has turned a blind eye to the stain of corruption and the institution of government has steadily eroded. It has never been more important to enact systemic ethics reforms like those put forward by the Assembly Minority Conference.”
Kolb concluded, “We will continue to fight corruption and call for changes to a shadow government that puts too much power in the hands of too few.”