Federal appeals court overturns Sheldon Silver corruption conviction

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MANHATTAN -

A federal appeals court overturned the corruption conviction of former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Thursday after the panel ruled the jury was given flawed instructions on what constitutes an "official act." 

Silver was sentenced last year to 12 years in prison on charges that he used his political power in return for millions in kickbacks.

In a 54-page decision, the court said, based on a Supreme Court ruling from last year, instructions given by the judge to the jury in Silver's case were too broad.

Political analyst Jerry Kremer says there is a chance that he would have been acquitted had the instructions been narrower. 

"They said the judge went too far and the jury acting on that in the minds of the court went too far," says Kremer. 

Attorneys for Silver said, "We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts." 

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim issued a 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."

Former federal prosecutor Sen. Todd Kaminsky said in a statement that the decision is "one more striking blow to  [voters']  faith in honest government." 

"It is well past time that our state Legislature enact real anti-corruption measures and empower local district attorney offices to bring corruption cases," the statement reads. 

Preet Bharara, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and successfully prosecuted Silver, said in a tweet that he expects Silver to be re-tried and re-convicted.
 

The U.S. Attorney's office says it will retry the case. 

It is unknown if the decision will have any implications on the conviction of former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre. His conviction is also being appealed.  Political analyst Jerry Kremer says Skelos' legal team should be "cautiously optimistic."

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