Appeals court overturns Sheldon Silver conviction

ALBANY — A federal appeals court overturned the felony corruption conviction of former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver in a decision released on Thursday morning.

Silver, who was convicted on charges involving his work at a pair of law firms, brought an appeal earlier this year that rested on a recent Supreme Court decision that narrowed the scope of public corruption.

In McDonnell v. United States, the court redefined what constitutes an “official act” conducted by an office holder that can be the “quo” in an illegal quid pro quo. That decision suggested the criminal acts needed to be concrete, like a vote or a distribution of government money, rather than actions like arranging a meeting or making a phone call.

Silver’s appeal argued that this decision made the instructions that were provided to the jury in his 2015 trial erroneous, as they were told that “any action taken or to be taken under color of official authority” should be considered an official act.

The appellate court agreed, and has sent the case back to the district court for a potential future trial.

Read the court’s decision here.



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