In separate federal courthouses in Lower Manhattan this month, two of the most powerful men in New York are about to go on trial, an extraordinary spectacle centering on allegations of corruption, bribery and nepotism in the state’s highest chambers of political power.But even as the men, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, the former speaker, and State Senator Dean G. Skelos, the former majority leader, fight the charges and try to restore their reputations, something else will also be on trial: the culture of Albany, the state capital.Court papers in the two cases suggest that testimony in Federal District Court will expose in granular detail what watchdog groups say is a seamy world where big money and politics have long intersected with government.There are accounts of kickbacks disguised as legitimate income; no-show jobs for a lawmaker’s son; and the use of state money to influence a doctor to refer clients to a favored law firm that, in turn, paid millions of dollars to a lawmaker.The alleged acts are typical of a culture, according to the watchdog groups, that has made Albany practically synonymous with corruption and stubbornly resistant to reform, keeping citizens — and even most lawmakers — in the dark about much of the legislative work and spending done in their names.
Shelly Silver's trial starts this week.
Dean Skelos' trial starts in two weeks.
The NY Times is running a great update page called "Albany on Trial" which you can find here.
Silver plans on defending himself against corruption charges by showing the court that what he engaged in was not out of the ordinary in Albany but, quite the contrary, something that everybody does.
To that end, he plans on calling a host of Albany players, including some very big names:
Arthur Luxenberg: Partner at Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver served as “of counsel.”
Perry Weitz: Partner at Weitz & Luxenberg.
“Lenny Litwin”: Head of Glenwood Management, which allegedly hired a small law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, from which Silver then got fees. The first time we’ve seen his name rendered as “Lenny.”
Brian Meara: Top Albany lobbyist close to Silver who is said to have cooperated with federal authorities.
Charlie Dorego: Top Glenwood Management official, cooperating witness in case against ex-Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Silver.
Dean Fuleihan: New York City budget director, former longtime top aide to Silver.
Dean Skelos: Long Island senator, federally indicted Republican former Senate Majority Leader.
Herman (Denny) Farrell: Manhattan assemblyman and chariman of the Ways & Means Committee.
Jack Rudin: may be the chairman Rudin Management Company, a major New York City developer.
Jonathan Lippman: Chief Judge of New York Court of Appeals, childhood friend of Silver. Retiring from bench at end of the year.
Joseph Strasberg: president, Rent Stabilization Association.
Judy Rapfogel: longtime top Silver aide, wife of William Rapfogel.
Keith Wright: Manhattan Assemblyman, chair of housing committee, candidate for Congress.
Larry Silverstein: Owner of major development firm Silverstein Properties.
Solly Assa: A person of this name is a New York City real estate developer.
Steven Spinola: The recently retired president of the Real Estate Board of New York.
Victor Franco: A person of this name has been deputy Budget Director for the Assembly.
Vito Lopez: Formerly powerful Brooklyn assemblyman. Silver faced criticism for a secret settlement regarding sexual harassment claims against Lopez.
Rubin (Ruby) Schron: New York City real estate investor and landlord.
Pat Lynch: Top Albany lobbyist known to be close to Silver.
Also on the list - Andrew Cuomo.
At the center of both the Silver and Skelos cases is Glenwood Management, a real estate company that happens to be Governor Cuomo's biggest donor (and got some Cuomo love in return for the money.)
Should be quite a show.
Dean Skelos and son Adam don't go on trial for a couple of weeks and there's still the potential that Skelos takes a plea deal.
But not Shelly - the NY Post reported Silver's lawyers never even responded to a deal that was offered by the feds.
So Albany's got to brace itself for what could be some eye-opening testimony that puts a lot of people - including the third man in the proverbial "Three Men In A Room" relationship, Andrew Cuomo - on the defensive.
Couple what could come out in the Silver trial to what could come out in a Skelos plea deal or trial, add in the feds' investigation into what appears to be bid rigging for Cuomo donors, and the potential is there for it to be quite a couple of months for that last man in the room.