Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is Indicted on 3-Counts - The Jewish Voice
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Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is Indicted on 3-Counts

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In Manhattan, on Thursday, February 19, a federal grand jury voted to indict Sheldon Silver on the charges of extortion and fraud that were the cause of his fall from the position of State Assembly Speaker and the basis of his arrest last month. On January 22, Silver was arrested on a five-count criminal complaint, in which he was alleged to have participated in two bribery and kickback schemes. In the United States District Courthouse in Manhattan, he was indicted on three-counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud and extortion under the color of official right. The three-count indictment accused Silver of taking close to $4 million over 15 years in bribes and kickbacks. Prosecutors allege that there were two schemes in which Silver used his position to obtain millions in corrupt payments from two law firms. However, not included in the indictment were the two charges in the complaint, which were an extortion conspiracy count and a mail fraud conspiracy count. It is not clear why Silver was not indicted on these other two-counts. The exclusion of the conspiracy counts does mean that prosecutors will not claim that a secret agreement existed between Silver and any persons as part of the alleged schemes. The indictment has been used by prosecutors to call for Silver’s pension and two homes, his permanent residences for decades on the Lower East Side and his Catskills vacation home, to be seized. If convicted, prosecutors also called for hundreds of thousands held by Silver in investments and bank accounts to be forfeited. The Daily News reports that former-prosecutor and Pace University Law Professor Bennett Gershman said, “I don’t think you see asset forfeiture of this scale in a case involving a government official charged with mail fraud. Typically, you see asset forfeiture in drug or money laundering cases.”Gershman noted that the seizures will require proof that Silver used “dirty money” to acquire or maintain his homes. Despite the pensions of lawmakers being protected by provisions in the state constitution, in recent years, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has pushed to use federal forfeiture laws to seize the funds from corrupt politicians on multiple occasions. Joel Cohen and Steven Molo, Silver’s attorneys, proclaimed their client’s innocence in a statement. “We can now begin to fight for his total vindication,” the statement said. “We will do our fighting where it should be done: in court.” Judge Valerie E. Caproni of Federal District Court will preside over Silver’s case and is scheduled to arraign him at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, February 24. A maximum of 20-years in prison is carried by each of the three charges Silver faces. Last month, Bharara’s criminal complaint against Silver last month charged him with receiving millions in bribes and kickbacks that were under the guise of legal referral fees. At that time Bharara said, “Speaker Silver lied and misled the public about his outside incomes.” Silver’s 21 years as assembly speaker came to a tragic end with the charges. He tried to hold on to his position but was forced by his fellow Democrats to resign a few days after his arrest. Bronx Democrat Assemblyman Carl Heastie has replaced Silver, who as of now still holds his seat in the assembly, as speaker. Last week, he Joint Commission on Public Ethics revealed that up to $120,000 in fines may be brought against Silver, in addition to the federal charges, for his failure to abide by state’s ethics laws in disclosing all his income.

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