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Silver convicted of corruption, kicked out of NYS Assembly

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on federal charges Monday

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted Monday on charges that he used his power to illegally earn more than $5 million in bribes and kickbacks. The federal jury came back with the guilty verdict after a three-week trial. 

Silver stepped down from his leadership post after his arrest on federal charges in January, but kept his seat in the Assembly. With this conviction, Silver is no longer a member of the Assembly. Silver's name was removed from the Assembly's website within minutes of the verdict being read. 

Silver's lawyers maintained that the 71-year-old Democrat had done nothing wrong, and that his actions part of the normal actions for politicians in Albany. More than 30 lawmakers have been accused or convicted of criminal activity since 2000. The Republican leader of the state Senate, Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) is currently on trial, along with his son Adam, on corruption charges.

Reaction to Silver's verdict came quickly. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) said in a statement that it is time to change the culture of Albany.

The jury has spoken – and quite loudly. Everyone in the State Capitol had better be listening. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been found guilty of corruption charges. The Legislature and Governor have a duty to change the culture in which his criminal behavior was able to exist.

Susan Lerner, with Common Cause, said it is time for new ethics standards in state government.

Today's verdict finding Sheldon Silver guilty of public corruption on all counts is a scathing indication that Albany insiders have lost touch with reality. We find it telling that it took a federal prosecutor, and not New York State's own watchdog system, to call out the deep-seated corruption and sense of entitlement that allows a leader to use his public office for private gain. Thankfully, the jury didn't buy tired explanations that self-dealing and back-scratching are just "business as usual." The public is tired of the ever-expanding litany of scandals and this must be a wake-up call to the leadership in Albany that real, comprehensive solutions must be enacted for the few who have let power go to their heads. The majority of legislators work full-time for the people; they should move quickly to bring New York's ethics laws up to the standards expected by the public. This is no time for piece-meal ethics reform. The people of New York are past due for a government for the people and by the people.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who had investigated Silver and other lawmakers, in a single sentence, said the following. 

Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York.