Statement on Appeals Court Ruling on Sheldon Silver

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  • Susan Lerner

In response to breaking news that a federal appeals court has overturned the conviction of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Common Cause New York Executive Director Susan Lerner issued the following statement:

“Let us be clear, the facts are not in question. Mr. Silver used his position in government to direct state resources into a scheme that paid out $4 million into his pocket. At the trial, Mr. Silver’s defense attorneys argued that this obvious corruption was simply business as usual in Albany, which the Supreme Court confirmed in McDonnell-defying the common sense of two New York juries and honest people everywhere. This is yet another area where the Court has misinterpreted the law, setting legal standards which fly in the face of the public’ expectations. Overturning Mr. Silver’s conviction based on the Judge’s instructions to the jury, which occurred before the McDonnell ruling, does not redefine the facts in evidence. The U.S. Attorney’s Office under Preet Bharara’s leadership won its case, and we have every expectation that the people can win again at retrial. Sheldon Silver is absolutely guilty of corrupting his office and violating the public trust of 19 million New Yorkers.”


In 2014, Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted on corruption charges, charged with fourteen different counts all related to accepting gifts from Jonnie Williams, a CEO of a corporation with business before the state.

In return for accepting vacations, loans, and designer watches and apparel, McDonnell promoted Williams’ product, Anatabloc, hosting events for him and encouraging state and private universities to conduct research on the supplement. He indicated that he had paid back the loans to Williams at the time of his indictment.

After a trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, he was found guilty, convicted of honest services wire fraud, and extortion and obtaining property both under color of official right.

McDonnell appealed the decision, but in July of 2015, the Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. McDonnell again appealed to the Supreme Court, and in August 2015, the Supreme Court ordered that McDonnell remain free pending its decision. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff in June of 2016.

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