Sheldon Silver, Speaker with the New York Assembly has been formally charged with fraud as part of a corruption investigation and arrested this morning. Silver who represents the Lower East Side in Manhattan, has been ranked as one of the three most powerful Democrats in Albany for over 20 years but today, he faces charges of fraud as well as various other criminal acts following a long Federal investigation.
Silver took office in 1994 with a tenure that has outlasted many politicians to include mayors and governors. According to officials, he tried to hide corrupt sources associated with income from the outside along with using his power in office to get millions of dollars in the form of kickbacks and bribes. In light of Silver’s arrest, today’s Assembly session was cancelled, which comes under two weeks since the opening of the new legislative session.
In Silver’s case, the amount of income earned since 2002 from two law firms was over $6 million. The problem is that roughly $4 million of that money was in exchange for secret and corrupt purposes. In the formal complaint, Silver used both influence and power of his official position in office to get millions of dollars. To cover the kickbacks and bribes, he reported them as income from work performed as a private attorney.
Initially, a probe into corruption in the state capital of Albany was formed as a commission by Governor Andrew Cuomo but then it suddenly stopped. However, once federal authorities decided to restart the investigation, Silver’s case sped up.
As stated by Steven Molo, attorney for Silver, the fact that prosecutors decided to pursue this as a criminal case is unfortunate. If Silver is convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison on each charge. The charges against Silver are one more in a long line of lawmakers in New York who have been and are being accused of wrongdoings.
One of Silver’s close and longtime Senate counterparts, Joseph Bruno, was acquitted of accepting bribes covered up as consulting fees. Mel Miller, a speaker predecessor of Silver, was convicted during the early 1990s of corruption but a federal appeals court eventually overturned the decision. In addition to Silver, Democratic Senate leaders Malcolm Smith and John Sampson are currently facing criminal charges as well.