Former assemblyman Sheldon Silver was convicted of fraud, bribery, and extortion in 2015. But his lawyers argued yesterday before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that a Supreme Court decision in 2016 changed the parameters of his prosecution and that his conviction should be overturned.
Prosecutors in 2015 argued that a variety of actions by Silver were “official acts” influenced by personal dealings, intermingling state grant disbursements and rent control legislation with things like finding a job for the son of a doctor who pushed business to Silver’s law firm. And jury instructions in that trial similarly did not make any distinction between those activities.
But a 2016 decision by the Supreme Court acquitted Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell by narrowing the definition of “official acts” to include only acts performed as an official, like passing legislation, not things like setting up meetings between individuals.
Silver did both. But because the instructions to the jury were broader than the subsequent Supreme Court decision allow, there’s no way to know how the jury reached its decision.
As I understand it, the Second Circuit could let the conviction stand, overturn it, or allow for a new trial under the more stringent definition of “official acts”.
Silver was sentenced last year to 12 years in prison, but he has remained at home in Hillman pending appeal.
Read reporting from yesterday’s hearing in the New York Times and Daily News.