(Editor’s note: This article was a submission from freelance writer Mike Doran)
New York’s former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the architects of New York’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, was found guilty Monday on seven federal corruption counts, reports local media.
Silver, one of New York’s longest serving speakers, was convicted of profiting $4 million from kickbacks and bribes in several schemes involving back door real estate deals and cancer patients.
“Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Silver, according to prosecutors, would give state grants totaling $500,000 to a cancer researcher, Robert Taub, who would then send his asbestos-exposed patients to Weitz & Luxenberg, a personal-injury law firm that would pay Silver from the settlements.
In another scheme, Silver directed real-estate developers to do business with another law firm, Goldberg & Iryami. The Speaker would then support legislation in the developer’s favor and disguise the hefty payments as legal work he had done on the side.
What a model citizen, right?
Silver was found guilty of two counts a piece for mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion, and a single money-laundering charge. All are felonies and the former speaker could face up to 30 years in prison.
The Speaker stepped down from his position in January but stayed on as a legislator. However, the conviction means he cannot hold office, and after a 38-year tenure all traces of his presence at the capitol were removed.
As one of Albany’s infamous “three men in a room,” where the governor, Assembly speaker, and Senate president decide the state’s policies privately, Silver wielded tremendous power over the legislative process, and used this power to quickly pass bills like the SAFE Act by working in conjunction with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Leader Dean Skelos.
The SAFE Act was rushed through as an emergency bill in the middle of the night after the events at Sandy Hook. The highly criticized political move bypassed the state’s three-day waiting period on legislation to rush through severe limits on magazine capacity and the purchasing of ammunition, as well as requiring all so-called “assault weapons” to be registered with the state.
But wait; wouldn’t you like to know who else is in hot water?
Dean Skelos, the former Senate Leader, is on trial for corruption. He was allegedly using his position and influence to help his son Adam get lucrative jobs. The New York Post reports that while the evidence against Silver was strong enough to convict, the evidence against Skelos is “brutal;” including wiretaps where Adam brags after Silver’s arrest: “There’s no heat on us … that is a story that was put out by the governor.”
Speaking of the governor, Cuomo has been quick to distance himself from the controversy surrounding Silver.
“Today, justice was served,” said Cuomo in the statement after the verdict was delivered. “Corruption was discovered, investigated, and prosecuted, and the jury has spoken. With the allegations proven, it is time for the Legislature to take seriously the need for reform. There will be zero tolerance for the violation of the public trust in New York.”
However, while Cuomo may harp about ethics reform, the governor may be next in line to face trial on corruption charges.
The New York Post also reports that Anthony Bonomo, one of Cuomo’s top contributors and whom Cuomo made the chairman of the New York Racing Association, was the one who gave Skelos’ son the cushy job.
“Bonomo is Cuomo’s guy, and he wouldn’t offer anything to Skelos’ kid without first making sure it was OK with the governor or his people,’’ the Post quotes a senior state Democrat.
“This is a drip by drip that’s getting closer and closer to Cuomo, with Bonomo and Dorego providing prosecutors with an inside look at how the corrupt Albany system works,’’ the Post quotes another senior state political figure.
One corrupt official down, two to go.