Sheldon Silver, an assemblyman who rose from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to become one of New York State’s most powerful politicians, was found guilty on Monday of federal corruption charges, ending a trial that was the capstone of the government’s efforts to expose the seamy culture of influence-peddling in Albany.
After a five-week trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the end came rather quickly and unceremoniously for Mr. Silver, 71, a Democrat who served more than two decades as Assembly speaker before he was forced to resign from the post after his arrest in January.Mr. Silver, who must automatically forfeit the legislative seat to which he was first elected nearly 40 years ago, was convicted on all seven counts of honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering filed against him.
When word came that the jury had reached a verdict, Mr. Silver fidgeted in his chair, clenched his jaw, shook his head, sighed and cast furtive glances toward Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, who had taken a seat at the rear of the courtroom just before the verdict was read.
After the fourth guilty pronouncement by the jury forewoman, Mr. Silver’s shoulders sagged visibly inside his baggy navy blue suit.Mr. Bharara released a succinct statement after the verdict: “Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York.”
No, the people of New York haven't gotten justice yet.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is still on trial for corruption, though with the wiretaps and boatloads of evidence against him and his son, I would think convictions in the Skelos trial are a done deal.
That leaves only the third man in the room, Sheriff Andy Cuomo, not yet under indictment and/or convicted.
US Attorney Preet Bharara is looking into Cuomo on a couple of counts:
First for the Moreland shutdown in return for the budget deal with the former Assembly Speaker, now-convicted felon, Sheldon Silver, and the under-indictment and soon-to-be convicted former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
The head of the Moreland Commission was feeding Cuomo's office everything that was going on - including the dirt they were digging up on Silver and Skelos - but Cuomo made the deal to shut down the commission anyway in return for a budget deal.
Had Bharara not picked up the investigation, Silver would have continued on in power, as would have Skelos.
Now with Silver convicted on all seven counts, that makes the budget shutdown and the subsequent tampering Cuomo did with the commissioners all the more suspect.
And then there's the investigation into Cuomo's donors in the Buffalo Billion Project who seem to have had the bidding process rigged for them.
That investigation is ongoing, and while we don't know of any public evidence of wrongdoing by anybody in the Cuomo administration, we also don't know what the feds have behind the scenes.
Remember, nobody knew what they had on Silver or Skelos either until the indictments.
None of this means an indictment of Cuomo administration officials or Cuomo himself is imminent.
But the conviction of Shelly Silver on all seven counts ought to give Cuomo pause considering all the smoke around the Moreland Commission shutdown and the Buffalo Billion Project.