A recent Supreme Court ruling clarifying the reach of public corruption charges cannot rescue a former New York state assemblyman serving a 14-year prison sentence from his conviction in a scheme to take bribes from a carnival promoter, an appeals court said Monday.
William Boyland Jr., a Democrat, was properly convicted even though the Brooklyn federal court jury that determined his fate had been improperly instructed about the meaning of an "official act" in a bribery case, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said.
Boyland, 46, had argued for an overturn of his conviction after the high court narrowed the definition of bribery when it overturned the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. The court found no proof McDonnell did more than meet with a businessman who gave him gifts.
Boyland, sentenced in 2015 to one of the longest prison terms given to state lawmakers convicted in a string of Albany corruption cases, is not scheduled for release from prison until May 2026.
Boyland was convicted at trial after his former chief of staff pleaded guilty to bribery charges and testified against him.
Prosecutors said they built their case after learning that Boyland accepted thousands of dollars in bribes in 2010 to help the carnival promoter obtain permits.
In an opinion written by Circuit Judge Amalya L. Kearse, the three-judge appeals panel noted that even prosecutors agree that the trial judge erred in the instructions of law given to the jury that convicted Boyland of 21 counts including extortion conspiracy, extortion and honest services wire fraud.
But it said the errors did not affect the outcome of the trial because evidence made it clear that a carnival's efforts to obtain city licenses and permits and bribes paid to advance real estate schemes required formal governmental decisions and a formal exercise of governmental power.
"Boyland promised that he would ensure that all of the necessary governmental actions occurred," the 2nd Circuit noted. "In connection with each matter, Boyland agreed to ensure that favorable governmental decisions would be made, whether for licensing, work contracts, zoning, or funding."
Attorney James M. Branden, who argued on appeal for Boyland, said there will be additional appeals.
"This is a criminal case resulting in loss of liberty for a significant time for a first offender," Branden said in an email. "It is hard to understand the Circuit's conclusion that even though most of the jury charges were infected with significant error, that somehow did not affect Mr. Boyland's 'substantial rights.'"
It was unclear what effect, if any, the 2nd Circuit ruling might have on appeals challenging the legitimacy of convictions of ex-New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican. Both are free while appealing their convictions on public corruption charges.
Lawyers for Silver and Skelos also have made the McDonnell ruling a key component of their appeals.
Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was convicted of collecting $4 million in kickbacks from a cancer researcher. Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison after he was convicted on charges that he used his clout to force companies to funnel over $300,000 to his son.