NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Motivated by greed, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver devised schemes to collect millions of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for using his office to support a cancer researcher and real estate developers, a federal prosecutor said Monday at closing arguments in Silver’s corruption trial.
As CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported, Silver’s trial has come to a close, and it is now up to a jury to decide if the former speaker traded his position for money.
The 3 week trial wrapped up with Silver’s defense team calling no witnesses and Silver himself refusing to take the stand.
“Why did Sheldon Silver do it? He did it for the money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein repeatedly told jurors in federal court in Manhattan.
Goldstein detailed one quid-pro-quo deal in which he said Dr. Robert Taub steered his patients with cancer caused by asbestos to Silver’s law firm, allowing the powerful Democrat and lawyer to secure more than $3 million in referral fees from lucrative personal injury claims.
In exchange, Silver steered $500,000 in taxpayer funds to Taub’s research projects and helped his son and daughter get a job and an internship, the prosecutor said.
“The defendant got one hell of a quid from the asbestos scheme,” Goldstein said. “The defendant gave Dr. Taub all kinds of quo.”
The prosecutor also took aim at the defense’s accusation that overzealous prosecutors were trying to criminalize behavior that’s politics as usual in the Assembly.
“Let’s dispense with the nonsense — and let’s talk about the evidence, which Sheldon Silver tried desperately to keep secret for years,” Goldstein said.
According to the government, the message was perfectly clear and perfectly criminal, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.
The 71-year-old Silver has pleaded not guilty.
During a break, Silver crossed paths with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported. They both turned away from each other.
In a vigorous closing argument, Silver’s attorney told the jury that no crime was committed and stressed that this was the way that Albany works.
“It’s virtually impossible to serve in this citizen legislature mode and not have a conflict. Conflicts are inherent in this process,” Silver’s attorney argued.
“I hoped to develop a relationship with him that would help fund mesothelioma research and would help my patients,” he testified.
Aside from the asbestos scheme, prosecutors have accused Silver of persuading some of New York’s biggest developers to hire a tiny law firm that secretly funneled $700,000 in fees to the ex-speaker.
During the same period, Silver worked behind the scenes to deliver tax-abatement and rent-control legislation that favored developers, part of a pattern of corruption that netted the lawmaker $5 million in illicit income during his reign as speaker, prosecutors say.
The lawmaker quit his speaker post after his arrest but retained his Assembly seat.
The jury will begin deliberations on Tuesday morning, they must decide unanimously whether to convict or acquit Silver on the seven charges that he faces.
If convicted, he faces up to 130 years in prison.
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