Sheldon Silver Gets Shot At Freedom After Appeals Court Vacates Convictions

Conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver overturned

Kelly Kramer, a white-collar criminal defense attorney at the Mayer Brown law firm, said that Silver's conviction had always been considered "one of the most vulnerable" after the Supreme Court's decision on McDonnell.

The Court of Appeals in Manhattan ordered that the case be remanded to the trial court, leaving the door open for prosecutors to retry Silver on charges that he obtained almost $4 million in illegal payments in return for taking official actions that benefited others. "Silver's defense attorneys argued that this obvious corruption was simply business as usual in Albany, which the Supreme Court confirmed in McDonnell-defying the common sense of two NY juries and honest people everywhere", she said in a statement.

The appeals court concluded Thursday that the jury instructions given in the case were erroneous and that a correctly instructed jury might not have convicted Silver.

"Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied", he added.

Federal prosecutors said the evidence is strong enough to convict Silver regardless of the definition, and they intend to prove it.

In one alleged scheme, Silver performed favors for a doctor seeking research funding in exchange for the doctor's referral of mesothelioma patients to Silver's law firm. He said lawmakers have taken no steps to rein-in their outside income or empower independent prosecutors to go after corruption - even in the wake of the conviction of Silver and ex-Long Island Sen. Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison, though has been free pending an appeal.

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According to the New York Times, the appellate court cited a Supreme Court ruling involving former Republican Governor Bob McConnell.

In the McDonnell case, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Supreme Court in June 2016, set a clear definition of the term "official action" and how it can be used in corruption convictions. That case centered around the question of what constitutes an "official action" under federal corruption law.

Shortly after Silver's conviction, the Supreme Court clarified the definition of "official act" in extortion and honest services fraud prosecutions in its McDonnell v. US decision.

Silver's lawyers argued during his appeal in March that prosecutors tried to charge him for carrying out legal, unofficial acts - such as setting up meetings and helping his cronies' kids land jobs. But the appeals court rejected that argument.

"We recognize that many would view the facts adduced at Silver's trial with distaste", the court wrote.

The instructions given to the jury in the Silver prosecution did not follow this construction.

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