Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on charges of corruption in early December by a New York jury. They found him guilty of honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering. There were two main issues involved in the litigation. The jury found Silver guilty of collecting nearly $5 million in referral fees from an asbestos disease research physician in exchange for the doctor sending his patients to Silver’s associates at a New York law firm for legal counsel. Additionally, the jury found that Silver was guilty of taking a portion of the money from fees paid to a New York real estate tax law firm by developers Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group.
The jury agreed with the prosecution’s allegations that the developers were involved in lobbying efforts and benefited from action taken by Silver on their behalf in exchange for the fees. In testimony, asbestos disease researcher Robert Taub, who practices at a mesothelioma treatment center at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, denied there was any explicit agreement between himself and Silver. However, records indicate he sent dozens of patients to Weitz & Luxenberg over a period of about 10 years. Silver directed state grants totaling nearly $500,000 to the mesothelioma treatment program.
The trial is part of an anti-corruption effort by Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York. In addition to Silver, Bharara has brought a bribery, extortion and fraud case against former New York Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam. Silver is out on bail and is due back in court on the 10th of this month.
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