Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction overturned

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives at the courthouse in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. A jury heard Silver's corruption case boiled down to two conflicting portrayals of the once-powerful Democrat: one as a greedy lawmaker who enriched himself with bribery and another as a seasoned politician who played by the rules regarding outside income. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction on corruption charges has been tossed out.

The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals was based off a ruling from the nation’s highest court that narrows the definition of political corruption.

Silver is a free man for now.

The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned his conviction on what many critics are calling “a technicality.”

The decision based on a Supreme Court ruling that changes the definition of political corruption. That ruling came after Silver’s conviction.

“There was a new definition of theft of honest services and the court of appeals said that the judge should have charged (instructed) the jury based on that definition also, and that if they had there may not have been a conviction. So the court sent it back,” Attorney Arnold Proskin said.

At trial, prosecutors exposed evidence that Silver collected $4 million in kickbacks for using his power to help those companies.

What constitutes an “official act’ now changes and no longer includes arranging meetings or other routine government functions.

The court points out the facts against Silver do support a conviction.

“It’s very important that they found there is sufficient evidence to support these crimes because that is what allows him to be prosecuted again. If there was insufficient evidence that would be the end of the case, so that is also an important part of this case,” Attorney Paul DerOhannesian said.

The U.S. District Attorney’s Office says they do intend to retry Silver.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim released this statement on the decision:

“While we are disappointed by the Second Circuit’s decision, we respect it, and look forward to retrying the case. Although finding that the Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision issued after Silver’s conviction required a different legal instruction to the jury, the Second Circuit also held that the evidence presented at the trial was sufficient to prove all the crimes charged against Silver, even under the new legal standard. Although this decision puts on hold the justice that New Yorkers got upon Silver’s conviction, we look forward to presenting to another jury the evidence of decades-long corruption by one of the most powerful politicians in New York State history. Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied.”

 

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