NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors urged a judge Friday to reject former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's bid to throw out an indictment accusing him of using the powerful legislative post to collect $4 million in kickbacks.
In papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, prosecutors told Judge Valerie Caproni that the Democrat is incorrect to claim there was nothing wrong with using his official position to obtain lucrative clients and millions of dollars in resulting legal fees.
"As much as Silver may wish otherwise, bribes, kickbacks, and extortion are just as illegal in New York as they are in every other state, whether or not they are practiced by a sitting legislator who also happens to be a lawyer, whether or not legislators are permitted to have outside employment, and whether or not the money is passed to Silver as cash in a suitcase or conveniently disguised as a lawyer's referral fee," they wrote.
Two weeks ago, Silver's lawyers asked Caproni to throw out the case, saying there was no crime.
"At bottom, what the government objects to in this case is not actual federal crimes but rather longstanding features of New York state government that the U.S. attorney finds distasteful," they wrote. "Throughout its history, New York has allowed state lawmakers to pursue private part-time employment. Numerous Assembly members have thus had active private careers at the same time they served the public — including careers as lawyers at private law firms."
Asked for comment Friday, two Silver lawyers wrote in an email: "We haven't yet studied the government's response to our meritorious motions to dismiss. When we have, we will reply, as Mr. Silver's defense does, in court."
Silver, 71, has said he will be vindicated. A trial is scheduled for November.
Silver resigned as Assembly speaker after his January arrest. He has retained his Assembly seat.
First elected in 1976, he represents a district on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where he was born and raised.
The charges were announced in January with a news conference in which U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara trumpeted the arrest as the latest example of Albany's "cauldron of corruption."
Last month, former New York Senate Leader Dean Skelos, 67, a Republican, and his son were arrested on charges that he traded his influence for $300,000 that benefited his son. Both have pleaded not guilty and are free on bail. Skelos has said he will fight the charges "aggressively."