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BY COLIN MIXSON
He’s been to Shel and back!
Disgraced former Downtown power broker Sheldon Silver endured his first day back in court on Monday, as prosecutors try to convince a second jury of the former Assembly Speaker’s quid-pro-quo corruption scheme after a prior conviction was thrown out on appeal.
Silver was “blinded by greed,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, who in his opening statement told the jury that the once-indomitable pol “abused his power for personal gain.”
As Assembly Speaker, Silver was a member of the so-called “three men in a room” who, along with the Governor and Senate Majority Leader, wielded immense influence both in Lower Manhattan — where he was first elected in 1976 — and throughout the state.
After 39 years in office, however, Silver fell far and fast following a conviction on corruption charges in 2015, when a jury found him guilty of colluding with both a physician and real estate interests to rake in millions from referral fees to his law firm in return for political favors.
But Silver was saved by none other than the U.S. Supreme Court, which paved the way for the former Assembly Speaker’s appeal with a 2016 ruling that narrowed the definition of what constituted official corruption.
In its decision regarding Silver’s case, the appeals court ruled in 2017 that the definition of official corruption provided to the jurors differed from the one used by the U.S. Supreme Court when it overturned the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, and so it was possible the jury could have ruled differently had it been instructed on the updated definition of the law.
That appeals court did note, however, that Silver’s conviction was not based on lack of evidence, according to former Deputy U.S. Attorney Joon Kim, who presided over Silver’s inaugural prosecution, and vowed that the one-time Downtown pol would eventually face justice.
“The Second Circuit also held that the evidence presented at the trial was sufficient to prove all the crimes charged against Silver, even under the new legal standard,” the former prosecutor wrote in a statement.
Silver’s defense attorney Michael Feldberg painted a much different picture than prosecutors in his opening remarks at the retrial, describing Silver as a selfless public servant, who’s multi-million-dollar referrals were “perfectly, 100-percent legal.”