New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested yesterday on corruption charges, a move that shocked a typically unflappable Albany and cast a deep shadow on the powerful longtime politician. The details of the case against him, revealed shortly after his arrest, paint a picture of a deep, longstanding fraud operation that netted Silver nearly $4 million.
According to the New York Times’ report, “The five-count criminal complaint runs to 35 pages and lays out the schemes in detail. It charges Mr. Silver with honest services mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud, extortion “under the color of law” — using his official position to commit extortion — and extortion conspiracy.”
Each charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The bulk of Silver’s alleged payouts came from New York City law firms, who paid him for either referring clients to them (possible asbestos victims, in one particularly disturbing example) or, in another case for favoring specific developers that benefitted a real estate law firm. (The Times has a helpful graphic that breaks it all down.) Silver, who is a lawyer, was found to have done no actual legal work for any of the firms who paid him annual fees—income which he then failed to report to the state.
Silver was released on $200,000 bail and surrendered his passport.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.