Powerful New York legislator Silver convicted in bribery case

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)
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)
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)
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
WASHINGTON, : Combo showing from L: Paula Jones --who has accused US President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment -- in a 06 January picture; Monica Lewinsky -- who figures in allegation of a coverup by Bill Clinton -- in an undated picture released by the Department of Defense 21 January; and Gennifer Flowers -- who claimed in 1992 to be then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton's lover -- during her live interview on CNN's Larry King Live 23 January. White House aides circled the wagons around Bill Clinton 23 January for a long weekend of planning how best to respond to a sex scandal that has mushroomed into the worst crisis of his presidency. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: U.S. Secret Service Uniform Division Chief Kevin Simpson (3rd L) attends a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about the recent prostitution scandal May 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. This is the first time Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan has testified to Congress since the news broke about the scandal, where a dozen Secret Service agents and employees spent a night of partying and cavorting with prostitutes and other women ahead of President Barack Obama attending a summit meeting of Western leaders in Cartagena, Colombia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Anthony Weiner speaks during his press conference in Brooklyn, New York June 16, 2011 where he announces his decision to resign from Congress after being embroiled for weeks in a sex scandal linked to his lewd online exchanges with women. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstration outside the Whitehouse in support of the impeachment of President Nixon (1913 - 1994) following the watergate revelations. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
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