Former Assembly Speaker Wants Freedom While Appealing Conviction

Former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver asked Friday to remain free pending appeal of his criminal conviction, saying there's a reasonable chance it will be reversed, negating the need for his 12-year prison sentence.

Silver is scheduled to report to prison July 1.

Lawyers for the Democrat filed papers in Manhattan federal court, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to make findings in an appeal of the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell that would redefine the limits of laws used to convict Silver.

They said a narrowing in the definition of what constitutes an "official act" for someone like Silver could lead to overturning his convictions for honest services fraud and extortion.

"There is simply no way to know whether the jury convicted on the basis of all the 'official acts' the Government alleged, or instead thought that some were official and some not - and improperly convicted on the basis of the ones it erroneously deemed official," the lawyers wrote.

The lawyers said there were other grounds to win a reversal on appeal, including what they called "inflammatory and gratuitous" evidence introduced at trial last fall.

Silver, 72, of Manhattan, was sentenced last week to 12 years in prison in the $5 million corruption case.

The lawyers also asked U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni to block collection of a $1.75 million fine and $5.3 million forfeiture order until appeals are completed, saying he otherwise must sell homes he jointly owns with his wife.

Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, declined comment. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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