Prosecutors urge speedy jailing of 2 convicted legislators

AP News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2016 9:22 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling reversing the conviction of a former Virginia governor is no reason to let two former top New York legislators remain free pending appeals of their convictions, federal prosecutors on Monday told judges overseeing the cases.

The prosecutors argued in papers filed in Manhattan federal court that the facts surrounding the convictions on public corruption charges last year of Democratic former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos are more than adequate to survive changes in how the nation's high court now defines public corruption.

Lawyers for Silver and Skelos asked for them to remain free pending appeals after the Supreme Court last month reversed the conviction of Virginia Republican ex-Gov. Robert McDonnell, who left office in January 2014.

In reversing McDonnell's conviction on charges he illegally accepted more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from a businessman, the Supreme Court raised the standards federal prosecutors must use when they accuse public officials of wrongdoing.

Earlier this year, Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison and Skelos got five years in prison. Judges in both cases agreed they can remain free until they decide whether the Supreme Court ruling gives them a greater likelihood of winning on appeal.

Silver was convicted of collecting $4 million in kickbacks from a cancer researcher and real estate developers in return for using his powerful post to help them.

Skelos was convicted of claims that he strong-armed a major real estate developer, an environmental technology company and a medical malpractice insurer into giving his son about $300,000.

Prosecutors said McDonnell has no relevance to the issues in Silver's appeal.

"McDonnell will not save Silver on appeal, nor should it entitle him to bail pending appeal," they wrote.

They said the judge in the Silver case instructed the jury at the urging of defense lawyers that they could not convict Silver if they found that he understood payments were made to him "only to cultivate generalized goodwill or nurture a relationship" rather than in exchange for specific official acts the legislator would take on behalf of those who made the payments. They noted that the judge in the McDonnell case declined to make a similar instruction over the objection of defense lawyers.

In a separate court filing, prosecutors wrote that guilty verdicts on all eight counts against Skelos "were based on official acts taken by Dean Skelos that fall squarely within the requirements of McDonnell."

Silver and Skelos were the highest-ranking of more than 30 lawmakers who since 2000 have left office facing criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct.