Conviction of former New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver is overturned


In vacating Silver's conviction, the appellate court cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling a year ago involving Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, that narrowed the definition of the kind of official conduct that can serve as the basis of a corruption prosecution.

Legal analysts said the appeals court's decision reinforces how prosecutors will face significant challenges in bringing and winning public corruption cases.

"We recognize that many would view the facts adduced at Silver's trial with distaste", Judge José A. Cabranes wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel. Silver's lawyers argued in their appeal that in presenting its case the government had also failed to trace "dirty" funds that were comingled with "clean" funds. The ruling clarified how juries should be instructed to view "an official act" in a federal bribery case.

The high court in September 2016 overturned the conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, saying that prosecutors had not adequately proved that there was a quid pro quo in the alleged bribery case.

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"Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied", he added. United States decision, "because it is not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have reached the same conclusion if properly instructed".

In Thursday's appeals court decision, Judge Jose Cabranes agreed with the argument of Silver's legal team, writing that, had jurors been using the new standard for corruption cases, they might not have come down with a guilty verdict.

Silver's and Dean Skelos' convictions were among the biggest prosecutions by Kim's predecessor, Preet Bharara, who made fighting public corruption a priority.

Joon Kim, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY, said he looks forward to retrying the case. "Silver's receipt of benefits connected to his official position", said David Siegal, a partner at Haynes and Boone, but "I don't think the evidence is a slam-dunk either way on retrial". Menendez is accused of helping a Florida ophthalmologist with government business in exchange for campaign contributions and posh getaways. He said the reversal reinforces voters" cynicism: "They think, "Of course you can get away with it'".