“During his decades in office Sheldon Silver has amassed titanic political power,” said Preet Bharara, Manhattan U.S. Attorney, in a statement. “But at the same time Silver also amassed a tremendous personal fortune — through the abuse of that political power.”
According to the complaint., which was unsealed in Manhattan federal court on January 22, Silver used his high position to refer asbestos cases from a doctor to a personal injury law firm, and to urge developers to retain another law firm. As a result, Silver was able to reap as much as $6 million in kickbacks.
Now, he faces up to 20 years in prison for each of the five counts he’s been charged with, which include conspiracy and fraud. If convicted, he must also leave office.
“I am confident that after a full hearing that I will be vindicated of these charges,” Silver said as he walked out of the Manhattan Magistrate’s Court on January 22, where he was also freed on a $200,000 bond and ordered not to leave the country. If he travels outside New York, New Jersey, or Washington, he must also first advise officials.
Political corruption in New York state’s capitol has overshadowed some of New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo’s accomplishments, including a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the fourth-most-populous state in the union, which followed Massachusetts’ lead from 2004, when it became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
This recent case could damage Governor Cuomo’s influence during the new legislative session, and may throw his bid to work with fellow Democrats to boost education and infrastructure spending into doubt.
However, Governor Cuomo has led a charge against corruption. in the past. In 2013, he created the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel, after two senators were indicted in separate corruption cases previously that year. The commission was disbanded, though, after lawmakers approved new ethics rules.
Once the Moreland Commission was disbanded, it turned its files over to Bharara’s office, which merged its info with ongoing probes the government already had going. Now, Bharara is investigating Cuomo’s administration after aides tried to stop members of the Moreland Commission from looking into his campaign and supporters, while the governor himself is pressing for more ethics changes.