On Friday, May 11, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the corruption charges against the former Assembly 1speaker Sheldon Silver, convicting him on counts of extortion and honest services fraud.
On Wednesday, May 9, after seven days and testimonies from 26 witness, Manhattan federal prosecutors rested their case against the 74-year-old disgraced Democrat. The defense team for Silver also rested their case, after admitting a few undisputed documents into evidence and without calling in a single witness and without Silver testifying on his own behalf.
This is just the most recent development in an ongoing legal sage for the politician. After being arrested in 2015, Silver was found guilty of using his position as the state’s top politician to get $4 million in bribes and kickbacks. In 2016, Silver was handed a 12-year prison sentence for fraud and extortion. Then last July, his conviction was overturned in federal appeals court, citing a decision the prior year by the Supreme Court which altered the definition of what constitutes as an “official action” under federal corruption law.
After the second guilty verdict, Silver told reporters as he left the courthouse on Friday that he feels he has a chance for another successful appeal. He said, “I’m very confident the judicial process will play out in my favor.”
He didn’t seem nearly as confident the following morning as he showed up as usual at 7am for Sabbath services at the Lower East Side’s Bialystoker Synagogue.
According to The Post, “But where he was once treated as a celebrity and bestowed with honors, his fellow worshippers gave him a wide berth and the mood was somber ‘as if someone had died,’ one observer said. There was no special prayer of healing as both the rabbi and the rabbi’s assistant offered after the Democratic leader’s 2015 arrest — an accommodation the politician declined at the time. And Silver was not called upon to read a blessing over the Torah, which is considered an honor. Now facing up to 130 years in prison after Friday’s guilty verdict in federal court, he sat largely alone in a corner of the synagogue’s basement prayer space.”
An observer told The Post, “The whole entire time he was just sunken into his prayer book. He seemed like a broken man.”
While Silver did sit down at one long table with about 20 worshippers for the kiddish meal after the service, congregants seemed to walk on eggshells around him, keeping conversation brief and traditional.
According to what an observer told The Post, Silver seemed to gain little comfort from the words of a fellow congregant who said that God would not cast out a member of the community “so we too shouldn’t cast anyone out.”
Following the meal, the politician picked up his prayer book, and reportedly went back to sit alone in the shul.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 13 for Silver, who in 2016 was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He will remain free on bail until then.
Compared to the confidence Silver portrayed after court on Friday, the severity of his situation seemed to have hit him more on Saturday. An observer told The Post, “He seemed worried and sick.”
By Sarah Finklestein