New York state assembly speaker arrested on corruption charges

Sheldon Silver

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the state’s most powerful Democrats for more than two decades, was arrested on Thursday after a lengthy federal corruption investigation, the FBI said.

Silver, 70, a lawyer whose tenure as speaker since 1994 has outlasted governors, mayors and many other politicians, has been under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the FBI. Silver has served in the Assembly since 1977.

According to published reports, the charges stemmed from payments he received from a small law firm specializing in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes.

Silver, a political power broker who represents Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is known as one of Albany’s “Three Men in a Room,” along with the governor and Senate majority leader, who negotiate the state budget and key legislation.

The arrest of Silver will likely spark political upheaval in Albany, the state capital, less than two weeks after the new legislative session opened.

The New York Times, cited an unnamed source, has reported that the payments in question were substantial and made over several years, and that Silver failed to list them on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state as required.

Several months ago federal prosecutors subpoenaed documents from a personal injury firm that also made undisclosed payments to Silver, the Times reported, citing a person with knowledge of that matter.

The newspaper said Silver’s lawyer, Joel Cohen, declined to comment on Wednesday night. Reuters was not immediately able to reach Silver’s legal representatives.

Silver has long been criticized for his continued employment in one of the state’s larger private law practices, which critics say posed a conflict with legislation that would be of interest to the firm, such as medical malpractice or tort reform.

The charges pending against Silver would mark the latest case of alleged wrongdoing by state lawmakers in Albany, where at least 30 politicians have faced legal or ethics problems since 2000.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat sworn into his second term earlier this month, created an independent anti-corruption commission in 2013 but shut it down this year, prompting federal prosecutors in New York to probe the panel’s unfinished cases and sparking the investigation of Silver.

By Nate Raymond

(Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Article courtesy of Reuters.

Photo copyright Reuters

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