NY court overturns corruption conviction of ex-assemblyman Silver

Sheldon Silver

The federal appeals court says that because of that Supreme Court ruling, the instructions the judge gave in the Silver case to the jury are "erroneous", and "the jury may have convicted Silver for conduct that is not unlawful, and a properly instructed jury might have reached a different conclusion".

"We recognize that many would view the facts adduced at Silver's trial with distaste". And while the federal appeals court said in its opinion Thursday that there was sufficient evidence to prove Silver's guilt, it found issue with jury instruction related to the definition of an official act.

"Given the teachings of the Supreme Court in McDonnell", Cabranes added, "and the particular circumstances of this case, we simply can not reach that conclusion".

A judge sentenced him to 12-years in prison in May 2016 after a jury on November 30, 2015 found the once-powerful Albany political figure guilty of all eight counts against him.

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. That case centered around the question of what constitutes an "official action" under federal corruption law. Silver's jury only considered whether he had acted "under the color" of his elected office.

Additional details are available on the New York Times website.

"Here, the instructions did not convey to the jury that an official action must be a decision or action on a matter involving the formal exercise of government power akin to a lawsuit, hearing, or agency determination", Cabranes wrote. "This is exactly why the public has absolutely no trust in elected officials or state government".

Prosecutors said they were disappointed by the ruling, but looked forward to retrying the case.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim promised a swift retrial, and expressed confidence that his office would secure a conviction.

Kim said that although justice will be delayed, prosecutors do not expect justice to be denied. Silver's lawyer Steven Molo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"What I have done has hurt the Assembly, and NY, and my constituents terribly, and I regret that more than I can possibly express", he wrote.

Another part of the McDonnell case that might come into play is the role of low-key favors in Silver's conviction.

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