Good government groups and other critics of state lawmakers reacted with outrage Thursday to the federal appeals court decision that reversed former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s 2015 corruption conviction.
“Sheldon Silver is absolutely guilty of corrupting his office and violating the public trust for 19 million New Yorkers,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.
The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, based in Albany, said the decision opens the door to more corruption and a “government for sale” attitude at the state Capitol.
“If using public money to buy lucrative clients isn’t corrupt, I don’t know what is,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the alliance.
The reversal of Silver’s conviction for soliciting payments to his New York City law firm in return for providing millions of dollars in state money to a cancer research institution in the city is the second time in less than a decade that a high-profile corruption conviction of an Albany politician has been reversed after a U.S. Supreme Court decision. In each case, the reversal was based on the trial judge having given erroneous instructions to the jury, based on U.S. Supreme Court rulings not yet in effect.
In 2012, the conviction — three years earlier — of former Senate majority leader Joe Bruno of Rensselaer County was overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of what qualifies as corruption under the federal “honest services” law. Bruno was tried a second time in 2014 and was acquitted.
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