Powerful New York legislator Silver convicted in bribery case

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Silver Guilty in Corruption Trial

Sheldon Silver, one of New York's most powerful politicians for two decades, was convicted on Monday of abusing his office to collect as much as $4 million in illegal bribes and kickbacks.

A federal jury in Manhattan found Silver, 71, guilty of all seven counts he faced following a three-week trial, including fraud, extortion and money laundering.

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The verdict caps a stunning fall for Silver, a Democrat who as speaker of the New York State Assembly enjoyed immense political influence before his arrest in January.

It also represents a major victory for Preet Bharara, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, who has brought criminal charges against several lawmakers in a broader probe by his office into corruption in the state capital of Albany.

Among those legislators is former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, who is himself currently on trial for corruption.

As the leaders of New York's two legislative houses, Silver and Skelos comprised two-thirds of the "three men in a room," who together with the governor control important legislation under New York's governance system.

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New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Corruption
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Powerful New York legislator Silver convicted in bribery case
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30: Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver leaves a federal court in Lower Manhattan on November 30, 2015 in New York City. A jury found Silver guilty on all seven charges against him in a federal corruption trial that lasted five-weeks. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver exits Manhattan federal court following his conviction on corruption charges, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver exits Manhattan federal court following his conviction on corruption charges, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives to the courthouse in New York, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who led the Assembly for 20 years, is accused of taking more than $4 million in bribes and kickbacks. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives at the courthouse in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. A jury heard Silver's corruption case boiled down to two conflicting portrayals of the once-powerful Democrat: one as a greedy lawmaker who enriched himself with bribery and another as a seasoned politician who played by the rules regarding outside income. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, center, is surrounded by members of the media as he leaves a federal courthouse in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. Silver faces arraignment on bribery charges that spurred his resignation from his role as one of New York's foremost political powerbrokers. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
FILE - In this June 18, 2015, file photo, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, prepares to leave the Assembly Chamber after the Assembly voted in favor of a five-day extension on New York City's rent regulations at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. The former New York state assembly speaker lost a bid Friday, July 24, to toss out corruption charges against him. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is transported by federal agents to federal court, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 in New York. Silver, who has been one of the most powerful men in Albany for more than two decades, was arrested Thursday on public corruption charges. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, center, is driven by federal agents to federal court, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 in New York. Silver, who has been one of the most powerful men in Albany for more than two decades, was arrested Thursday on public corruption charges. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, right, talks with Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester, at the start of the 2015 legislative session in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
A special agent stands next to a chart detailing the alleged real estate kickbacks received by New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver during a news conference by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 in New York. Silver has been arrested on public corruption charges. He's accused of using his position as one of the state's most powerful politicians to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, center, confers with Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester, left, and Brian Coyne, director of legislative operations, at the start of the 2015 legislative session in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. The Assembly and Senate both convened Wednesday for the start of the six-month 2015 legislative session. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: New York Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver attends Century 21 Department Store Expansion Ribbing Cutting Ceremony at Century 21 on April 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, walks on the floor in the Assembly Chamber at the start of the 2015 legislative session at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. The Assembly and Senate both convened Wednesday for the start of the six-month 2015 legislative session. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, talks in the Assembly Chamber at the start of the 2015 legislative session at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. The Assembly and Senate both convened Wednesday for the start of the six-month 2015 legislative session.(AP Photo/Mike Groll)
FILE--In this Feb. 25, 2014 file photo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, speaks during a New York Dream Act news conference at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. Bill sponsor Assemblyman Francisco Moya, D-Jackson Heights, stands right. (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, talk during a news conference announcing an agreement on legislation legalizing medical marijuana on Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. A vote on the legislation is expected Thursday night when the legislative session is scheduled to end. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
From left Senate co-leader Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, leave a news conference in the Red Room at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, in the Assembly Chamber on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, in the Assembly Chamber on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, talks to reporters in a hallway at the Capitol on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, left, and Assemblyman Francisco Moya, D-Jackson Heights, on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, on Thursday, March 20, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: New York Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver attends Century 21 Department Store Expansion Ribbing Cutting Ceremony at Century 21 on April 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, during a news conference on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Senator Daniel L. Squadron and New York Assembley Speaker Sheldon Silver attend Century 21 Department Store Expansion Ribbing Cutting Ceremony at Century 21 on April 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
ALBANY, NY - MARCH 12: Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver walks in front of the State Capitol March 12, 2008 in Albany, New York. New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation today after various media reports have linked him to a prostitution ring. New York Lieutenant Governor David Paterson will take over for Spitzer when his resignation goes into effect Monday, March 17, 2008. (Photo by Daniel Barry/Getty Images)
ALBANY, NY - MARCH 12: Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver speaks to members of the media in the State Capitol March 12, 2008 in Albany, New York. New York state Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation today after various media reports have linked him to a prostitution ring. New York Lieutenant Governor David Paterson will take over for Spitzer when his resignation goes into effect Monday, March 17, 2008. (Photo by Daniel Barry/Getty Images)
ALBANY, NY - MARCH 12: Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver speaks to members of the media in the State Capitol March 12, 2008 in Albany, New York. New York state Governor Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation today after various media reports have linked him to a prostitution ring. New York Lieutenant Governor David Paterson will take over for Spitzer when his resignation goes into effect Monday, March 17, 2008. (Photo by Daniel Barry/Getty Images)
NBC NEWS -- Pictured: New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver moderates questions to two officials of the Bovis Lend Lease Company who are the contractors for dismantling the now infamous Deutsche Bank building in downtown Mahattan, New York, New York on August 29, 2007 (Photo by Curtis Means/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 05: Mayor Bloomberg met with Sheldon Silver in City Hall reportedly to discuss the West Side Stadium proposal. Silver leaving City Hall. (Photo by Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at hearing on Con Ed's role in the prolonged blackout in Washington Heights. (Photo by Thomas Monaster/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
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Both Silver and Skelos resigned their leadership posts after their arrests but kept their seats. Silver, who represented Manhattan's Lower East Side, will automatically lose his office after his conviction.

"Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York," Bharara, who was in court to hear the verdict, said in a statement.

Hours after the verdict, Silver left the courthouse amid a throng of reporters.

"I'm disappointed right now," he said before leaving in a black car. One of his defense lawyers, Steven Molo, said they would file motions seeking to set aside the verdict.

Prosecutors said Silver awarded $500,000 in secret state grant money to a cancer researcher, Robert Taub, who in turn referred asbestos patients to Silver's law firm. The firm then paid Silver millions of dollars in referral fees.

Silver was also charged with steering developers to another law firm in exchange for kickbacks and then supporting rent legislation favored by the developers.

Silver's lawyers had accused Bharara of overreaching by trying to criminalize the horse-trading that typifies Albany politics.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause in New York, a good government group, said the verdict is a "wakeup call" to lawmakers.

"The public does not view this as business as usual," she said in a phone interview. "This jury is saying that self-dealing and back-scratching is not an acceptable way for a public servant to behave."

(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Brendan Pierson; Writng by Joseph Ax; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

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Powerful New York legislator Silver convicted in bribery case
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