ALBANY (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is taking a leave of absence from his law firm as he fights federal corruption charges.
New York City-based Weitz & Luxenberg announced the separation Wednesday. President Perry Weitz says the firm was “shocked” to learn about the accusations against Silver.
The 70-year-old Manhattan Democrat was taken into custody last Thursday on federal charges he took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks.
Some of the charges relate to allegations that Silver collected money for securing state grants for a doctor who then referred cases to the firm. Weitz says the firm had no knowledge of the alleged arrangement.
Silver has said he expects to be exonerated. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 100 years in prison.
The Assembly’s Democratic majority announced Tuesday that Silver had agreed to relinquish his position as speaker, which he has held for 21 years.
The decision announced by Majority Leader Joseph Morelle came after Democratic lawmakers met behind closed doors for two days to discuss their response to the turmoil that has threatened one of the longest careers in American state politics.
“He said to me he will not impede the transition,” said Morelle, surrounded by most of the other 105 Assembly Democrats. “We’ll have a vacancy on Monday.”
“I don’t know what decision my colleagues made,” Silver told reporters later. “I made a decision that I will not hinder this process.”