On Monday, a federal jury in Manhattan convicted long time former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on seven counts of extortion, honest-services fraud and money laundering. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the seven counts when he is sentenced.
The corruption charges were first made in January; they arose out of what prosecutors said where two separate corruption schemes. In one, he was accused of directing $500,000 in state research grants for mesothelioma research to a doctor at Columbia University, who in return referred cases to a law firm that Silver was associated with. In the second, he was accused of tilting real estate legislation on rent-control and tax breaks toward two developers. In turn, the developers took their tax cases to a Manhattan lawyer who secretly shared fees with Silver.
While Silver was automatically forced from office on Monday when he was convicted, the State Comptroller’s Office reports that he filed his retirement papers just one day later. Somehow, a person who used his elected office to put millions of dollars in his own pocket is going to collect about $90,000 per year from the state’s pension system. The good news is that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has said he plans to seek those public retirement payments as part of restitution in Silver’s case. We wish him well in this effort.