Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted Thursday on corruption charges by a grand jury after he was arrested Jan. 22 for allegedly pocketing $4 million in a kickback scheme with two law firms over a decade.
Silve, 71, a Manhattan Democrat, was indicted on three charges: honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud and extortion under the color of his official duties.
The indictment said that since 2000, Silver “engaged in a secret and corrupt scheme to deprive the citizens of the state of his honest services as an elected legislator and as speaker of the Assembly by using the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income earned by Silver as a private attorney.”
Silver was arrested and served with a complaint by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that included five counts.
The arrest of Silver, who served as speaker since 1994, sent the state Capitol into turmoil, and he ultimately gave up his powerful post Feb. 2 after his Assembly Democratic colleagues pressured him to step down. Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie was elected as his successor, and Silver has remained a rank-and-file legislator, sitting in the back of the chamber and losing his large office in the Capitol.
Silver served as of counsel at the major law firm Weitz and Luxenberg, and Bharara accused Silver of providing state grants to a doctor in exchange for the doctor referring lucrative asbestos cases to the firm—with Silver getting a cut of the deals. With another law firm, Silver is accused of getting kickbacks in real-estate deals.
Silver has proclaimed his innocence, and Weitz and Luxenberg has denied any wrongdoing. Silver’s arraignment had not been scheduled.
“Our client is not guilty. We can now begin to fight for his total vindication. We will do our fighting where it should be done: in court,” Silver’s attorneys, Joel Cohen and Steven Molo, said in a statement.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Gannett Albany Bureau, Joseph Spector