NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A bombshell came down Friday in the case of former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – a man who was once one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, federal prosecutors said Silver had extramarital affairs with two women, and abused his position in government to give them preferential professional treatment.
It was a secret that Silver’s attorneys fought to keep private, but Manhattan U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni made it public on Friday.
The women’s names and other information was redacted, but the documents still outlined two extramarital affairs the U.S. Attorney’s office was prepared to enter as evidence in Silver’s corruption case under certain conditions.
One of the women lobbied for Silver “on a regular basis” on behalf of her clients who had business with the state. She was hired “in part due to Silver’s recommendation and follow-up requests,” the unsealed papers said.
The documents also show Silver told the woman they had to conceal their relationship from news reporters, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
Silver used his position to get the second woman a state government job after Silver contacted an agency “over which he exercised a particularly high level of control,” according to the papers.
Silver’s lawyers and a lawyer for one of the women, who were not identified, had opposed the release of the documents.
A day earlier, Silver declined comment as he left a court hearing over the issue. On Friday, his lawyers — Steven Molo and Joel Cohen — released a statement calling the revelations “simply unproven and salacious allegations that have no place in this case or public discussion.”
Prosecutors had hoped to use evidence of the affairs, including a taped conversation in which Silver and one of the women spoke “quietly and in whispers,” at Silver’s criminal trial to counter any witnesses who might testify about his integrity, ethics, honesty and truthfulness.
WEB EXTRA: Read All The Documents
“Such conduct demonstrates Silver’s willingness to use his official powers to further his personal interests while concealing his personal involvement from his staff and the public,” prosecutors wrote in October.
Silver’s lawyers had opposed the unsealing on grounds they could jeopardize a fair trial if Silver wins an appeal.
In February, Caproni ruled that the documents could be unsealed, saying “this otherwise personal and embarrassing conduct does, however, have public ramifications.”
Caproni said the women were not entirely innocent third parties.
“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.”
Candidates will be on the ballot to take Silver’s place in the state Assembly on Tuesday of next week. Working Families Party candidate Yuh-Line Niou reacted to the allegations Friday.
“I think the whole district feels very betrayed,” he said.
Niou, who lives in Silver’s Lower East Side district, said the alleged affairs are troubling. She said she wonders whether it impacted which bills passed and which did not.
“I think we need to know exactly who was benefiting from these relationships; what was going on,” she said.
Rumors about Silver cheating on his wife of 40 years had circulated in Albany for years. The allegations that his paramours benefited financially disappointed one Republican state lawmaker.
“This is using your position to not only enrich yourself — which we know that he now has done — but to also do political favors for allies or individuals you may have relationships with,” said Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), “and that’s where it goes the extra mile here and makes it inappropriate.”
Malliotakis said she was disappointed, but not surprised.
“I don’t find it surprising,” she said. “Sheldon Silver was a very corrupt individual who used his position not only to enrich himself, but also to do political favors for allies of his.”
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.
Silver’s attorneys released a statement, saying, “These are simply unproven, salacious allegations that have no place in this case or public discussion.”
Late Friday, the attorney for one of the women allegedly involved with Silver says there was no affair, just a benign friendship.
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. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 3.
He had once been one of the most powerful men in Albany – along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Senate leader Dean Skelos, who together with Silver were sometimes called the “three men in a room.”
He served as leader of the state Assembly from 1994 through early 2015.
Silver was disbarred last month by the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan.
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