Now-former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s attorneys argue that a federal prosecutor’s harsh words — and the media’s amplification of them — should be enough to dismiss the federal charges against the lawmaker.
Silver, 71, was arraigned Tuesday in Manhattan federal court on a three-count indictment that accuses him of collecting $4 million in kickbacks from a pair of New York City law firms.
In a motion to dismiss the charges, his attorneys accuse U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of orchestrating a “media blitz” surrounding the charges against Silver, while trying to convict him in the court of public opinion before a trial kicks off.
“From the outset, the prosecution has changed what should be a search for truth into an unrelenting media frenzy, the flames of which are fanned at every turn with actions that show a complete disregard for the rules governing a prosecutor’s conduct,” Silver’s legal team wrote. “The effect of the U.S. Attorney’s actions is to convict in the media before even calling his first witness. Those actions have denied Mr. Silver the impartial proceedings to which he is entitled.”
The document cites dozens of articles from before, the day of and after Silver’s Jan. 22 arrest, most of which feature snappy quotes from Bharara blasting the three-men-in-a-room culture of Albany and accusing Silver of participating in an illegal scheme.
Silver pleaded not guilty to the three felony charges, which was handed down by a grand jury last week and was pared down from an initial five-count complaint filed by Bharara’s office.
“Of course, there is nothing wrong with a New York state legislator earning outside income from other professional pursuits: Part-time public service has long been the norm in this State,” Silver’s motion reads. “Nor is there anything improper about an attorney earning referral fees for bringing in business to a law firm: ‘Rainmaking’ is not a federal crime.”
The Manhattan Democrat remains a lawmaker in the 150-seat Assembly, but was forced to step down as speaker by his colleagues.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Here’s his motion to dismiss: