Sheldon Silver Had Affair With Lobbyist, Docs Unsealed After NBC 4 Court Fight Reveal

Sheldon Silver was convicted in November in a $5 million corruption case

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had affairs with a woman who lobbied for him on a regular basis and another whom he helped get a job using his elected position, according to documents unsealed Friday after NBC 4 New York and the New York Times fought to have them made public.

Manhattan federal Judge Valerie Caproni released the papers on Friday.

Steven Molo, an attorney for Silver, called the allegations salacious and unproven.

"These are simply unproven and salacious allegations that have no place in this case or public discussion," he said.

The 72-year-old Democrat was convicted in November in a $5 million corruption case. Prosecutors say he traded favors to enrich himself and then lied about it.

Lawyers for NBC 4 New York and The New York Times asked the judge in February to unseal documents pertaining to evidence excluded from Silver's corruption trial last year.

At a hearing before releasing the documents, Caproni said "this otherwise personal and embarrassing conduct does, however, have public ramifications."

One of the documents, a motion by prosecutors to introduce Silver's affairs as character evidence, discusses the dalliances at length.

Prosecutors said in the motion that Silver, 72, and the lobbyist inadvertently recorded one of their conversations. Both spoke in whispers throughout the conversation, which covered both sate and private business.

At one point in the conversation, the documents reveal, the lobbyist told Silver that she had been trying see him because a reporter had called about whether certain legislators had been having "affairs."

Silver then replied "I don't think he caught us."

He later told the lobbyist it wasn't safe for them to be seen together and that he didn't think inquiries from the press would be "dissipating for a long time."

The motion also revealed that Silver helped get a second woman with whom he was having an affair a state job where he had a large amount of control. According to the papers, Silver's office recommended the woman for the job and later followed up on her application. Prosecutors said in the documents that the hiring manager gave the woman a job based in part because Sheldon had recommended her.

In a transcript of a hearing discussing prosecutors' motion, the judge in the case says that while Silver didn't have a "bribe relationship with the woman, the alleged affair could be seen as having benefit to him personally.

"So he gets his girlfriend a job...because she's his girlfriend," the judge said. "It's using his official role to benefit him personally."

In a rebuttal to the motion submitted by Silver's defense team, his lawyers argue that the affair allegations are "totally immaterial" and called prosecutors' motion "a transparent attempt to smear Mr. Silver's personal character before the jury with tawdry gossip."

Caproni, meanwhile, said neither of the women was an entirely innocent third party. 

"Each allegedly had an extramarital affair with a public official and then exploited her relationship with the public official for personal gain," she wrote. "The expectation of privacy in an amorous relationship where official government business and personal benefit are intertwined is necessarily less than an amorous relationship between wholly private citizens or between a private citizen and a government official where there is no intersection with state business."

NBC 4 New York was the first media outlet to ask the court to release the documents tied to the federal probe into the $4 million in payments and legal fees Silver received in exchange for using his office to help real estate developers and a doctor seeking state funding grants.

Silver and an unnamed woman linked to him worked to prevent the public from learning what's in the papers. Silver's lawyers had opposed the unsealing on grounds they could jeopardize a fair trial if Silver wins an appeal, while an attorney for the woman had argued her privacy rights are in jeopardy. 

That woman's name has been redacted from the documents. It's not immediately clear if she was one of the two women with whom Silver had affairs.

Silver is scheduled to be sentenced May 3.

Albany has a longstanding reputation for extramarital liaisons by legislators and other officials spending long periods far from home. They occasionally become public amid scandals.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 after federal authorities found he patronized high-end prostitutes under the nose of his police detail. Gov. David Paterson, who followed, promptly acknowledged, in response to rumors, a number of past affairs while he was a state senator.

On the Lower East Side, some of Silver's old constituents said they were divided on the allegations. 

One person said Friday that Silver "did a lot for the neighborhood. So I have nothing bad to say about him really."

Debbie Abosheta, meanwhile, called it a "big disappointment."

"It's just shameful," she said. "It's exhausting is what it is. It's exhausting."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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