Silver indicted on fed charges, pleads not guilty | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Silver indicted on fed charges, pleads not guilty

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, center, was out and about in Chinatown on Sunday to take in the Lunar New Year Parade. Joining him were, from left, Councilmember Margaret Chin, Public Advocate Letitia James, State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, Queens Assemblymember David Weprin and state Senator Daniel Squadron.  Photo by Milo Hess

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, center, was out and about in Chinatown on Sunday to take in the Lunar New Year Parade. Joining him were, from left, Councilmember Margaret Chin, Public Advocate Letitia James, State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, Queens Assemblymember David Weprin and state Senator Daniel Squadron. Photo by Milo Hess

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted last Thursday in connection with his arrest last month on federal charges.

A federal grand jury indicted him on mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion.

On Tuesday, during a brief court appearance, Silver pleaded not guilty.

It was reported that Silver’s attorneys, Joel Cohen and Steven Molo, declared they will “fight for his total vindication.”

Silver’s lawyers said they will move to dismiss the case based on press conferences by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, in which they said Bharara “improperly prejudiced” the grand jury and any future trial.

“These were situations where the U.S. attorney excoriated the defendant and basically deprived him of his presumption of innocence and extolled his guilt,” Molo said.

After turning himself in for arrest at F.B.I. headquarters on Jan. 22, Silver was slapped with corruption, extortion and fraud charges in connection with two alleged scams, dating back to 2002, to net himself $4 million. He allegedly did not declare this cash on disclosure forms required for legislators.

The corruption charges, however, were subsequently dropped, for what reason, it was not immediately clear.

Silver led the Assembly for more than 20 years. He resigned as speaker on Feb. 2 after the Democratic majority said he could no longer continue in the post with major federal charges hanging over him.

Silver meanwhile continues to hold onto his Assembly seat, saying the district’s voters put him there. If convicted of a federal crime, though, he’ll be forced to resign from the Legislature, giving up the Lower Manhattan 65th Assembly District seat he has held since 1976.

In addition, Bharara announced that he will be taking aim at Silver’s pension, if the former speaker is convicted and can’t pay back the ill-begotten cash. Silver stands to receive an annual pension of $87,120, which would total more than $1.1 million over his expected lifespan, according to the Empire Center for Public Policy, the New York Post reported.

Asked for comment on Silver’s indictment, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried said, “I don’t know the facts of the case, but Shelly Silver’s legacy of leadership on issues critical to New York and progressive causes should not be forgotten, whatever the outcome. Whatever the underlying facts may be, I do hope this helps get reforms enacted relating to public officials’ outside income and broader disclosure.” Assemblymember Deborah Glick did respond to a request for comment by press time.

State Senator Brad Hoylman was one of the first to call for Silver to step down after the former speaker’s arrest.

Asked by The Villager for comment on Silver’s indictment, Hoylman said, “The justice system will run its course.”