The man who was the stalwart leader of the Jewish community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the strongest Democratic politician in NY State, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon “Shelly” Silver, is free of all charges.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit in Manhattan, Judge José A. Cabranes noted that although “we recognize that many would view the facts adduced at Silver’s trial with distaste, the question presented to us, however, is not how a jury would likely view the evidence presented by the government. Rather, it is whether it is clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a rational jury, properly instructed, would have found Silver guilty.”
On November 30, 2015, a unanimous jury found Silver guilty on all seven counts of making illegal investments through private vehicles, netting a profit of $750,000. The conviction triggered his automatic expulsion from the Assembly. On May 3, 2016, federal judge Valerie E. Caproni of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York sentenced Silver to 12 years in jail, and ordered him to pay $5.3 million in ill-gotten gains and $1.75 million in additional fines. Silver received two prison terms: 12 years for six criminal counts against him and 10 years on the seventh, to run concurrently. But he remained free on bail, while the panel of judges considered his appeal based on the US Supreme Court’s decision in McDonnell v. United States that reversed the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
The appellate court cited the McDonnell ruling, which narrowed the definition of official conduct to be used as the foundation of a corruption prosecution – leading to the conclusion that the judge in Silver’s case misled the jury with his instructions – or the same jury might not have found Silver guilty.
It should be noted that the appellate court’s ruling still leaves the door open for prosecutors to retry Mr. Silver.