NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Deliberations in the corruption trial of ex-New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver began with drama Tuesday when a juror claimed that other jurors accused her of failing to use her common sense, leaving her feeling “very, very uncomfortable.”
“I’m feeling pressured, stressed out,” the juror wrote in a note to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan as she asked to be excused from further deliberations, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
The note, the first word from jurors, came less than two hours after deliberations began.
Prosecutors accuse Silver of abusing his office for years, collecting millions of dollars in kickbacks for favors provided to a cancer researcher and real estate developers. The defense countered that the once-powerful Democrat did not commit a crime.
In all, prosecutors claim Silver earned $5 million illegally over more than a decade. Still an assemblyman, the 71-year-old lawyer resigned his leadership post after his January arrest. Silver has pleaded not guilty to bribery and extortion charges.
In her note, the juror said she had a different opinion and view than other jurors “and it is making me feel very, very uncomfortable.”
Other jurors, she said, were telling her she was not using her common sense.
“My heart is pounding and my head feels weird,” she said. “I am so stressed out right now that I can’t even write normally. I don’t feel like I can be myself right now! I need to leave!”
After a prosecutor recommended she be released as a juror, the judge said it was too early to do so, and said she would urge jurors to respectfully exchange views.
“Listen to and exchange views with your other jurors,” Caproni said she would tell them.
The judge said she was further convinced that patience was the best remedy when another note emerged from jurors shortly afterward. In it, the jurors asked if there was a code of conduct or ethics code that clearly stated whether receiving funds for something in return is illegal.
“It seems there is some deliberation going on,” the judge told lawyers. “It’s too early to throw in the towel.”
The jury 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.
The three-week trial wrapped up with Silver’s defense team calling no witnesses and Silver himself refusing to take the stand.
In closing arguments Monday, the jury heard the case boil down to two conflicting portrayals of the once-powerful Democrat: one as a greedy lawmaker who enriched himself with bribery and another as a seasoned politician who played by the rules regarding outside income.
“Why did Sheldon Silver do it? He did it for the money,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein repeatedly told the jury. The evidence, he added, “shows that Sheldon Silver was a master of every form of deception — lying, keeping secrets, even splitting hairs.”
He 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,” he said.
Defense attorney Steven Molo countered by accusing the government of embracing a flawed theory of a circumstantial case. In their eyes, “If a fact gets in a way of that theory, you ignore it, and if you can’t ignore it, you twist it,” he said.
He added: “A lesser person would have folded, but Sheldon Silver is a fighter. He knows he did not commit a crime. There was no quid quo pro. He did not sell his office.”
Silver’s trial is taking place simultaneously with that of state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son at a nearby courthouse on charges that the Republican badgered companies reliant upon his legislative support to funnel more than $300,000 to the son.
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