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Society

Sheldon Silver Wants To Be Free

NEW YORK — A former State Assembly speaker convicted in a $5 million corruption case asked on May 13 to remain free pending appeal, saying there’s a reasonable chance his conviction will be reversed, negating the need for his 12-year prison sentence.

Lawyers for Democrat Sheldon Silver filed papers in Manhattan Federal court, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to make findings in an appeal of the conviction of former Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell that would redefine the limits of laws used to convict Silver.

They said a narrowing in the definition of what constitutes an “official act” for someone like Silver could lead to overturning his convictions for honest services fraud and extortion.

“There is simply no way to know whether the jury convicted on the basis of all the ‘official acts’ the Government alleged, or instead thought that some were official and some not — and improperly convicted on the basis of the ones it erroneously deemed official,” the lawyers wrote.

The lawyers said there were other grounds to win a reversal on appeal, including what they called “inflammatory and gratuitous” evidence introduced at trial last fall.

Silver, 72, was sentenced last week. He’s scheduled to report to prison July 1.

His lawyers also asked U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni to block collection of a $1.75 million fine and a $5.3 million forfeiture order until appeals are completed, saying he otherwise must sell homes he jointly owns with his wife.

They noted that he is currently required to pay $1.5 million toward financial penalties by June 14 out of about $2.2 million in assets he has available.

They said the $2.2 million includes $794,000 in state-deferred compensation, which would be taxed heavily if it were liquidated to pay the fine. They said another $850,000 represents the value of two homes Silver owns with his wife.

“While the government could refund the fine if Mr. Silver prevailed on appeal, it could not restore their home,” they wrote.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment.

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LARRY NEUMEISTER

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