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Former NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Indicted On 3 Charges

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted Thursday on three charges after his arrest last month in a federal bribery case.

The indictment was returned in Manhattan federal court, where he appeared last month briefly when he was freed on bail just a day after sharing the stage with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address. The charges are honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud and extortion under the color of his official duties.


"Our client is not guilty. We can now begin to fight for his total vindication. We intend to do that fighting where it should be done -- in court,'' Silver's lawyers, Joel Cohen and Steve Molo, said in a statement. Silver has said he is confident he will be vindicated.

Former NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Indicted On 3 Charges

Silver's arrest came after he had led the Assembly for over 20 years, becoming one of the most powerful and savvy figures in New York state politics.

But prosecutors said there was a dark side to his reputation as a potent backroom operator who played a major role in state budgets and laws, controlling which lawmakers sat on which committees and what bills got a vote.

The indictment accuses Silver with using the power and influence of his office to obtain $4 million in bribes and kickbacks from two law firms for legal work that he never did, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported. The personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg paid Silver $3 million to refer patients to the firm. The indictment charges Silver was able to get those patient referrals by steering $500,000 in state funds to one particular doctor's medical research.

Weitz & Luxenberg fired Silver after the scandal broke and is not charged with any wrongdoing.

Silver is accused of lying and misleading the public about the source of his outside income and of going great lengths to conceal at least 15 years of fraud from the Moreland Commission, which was established to clean up the corruption in Albany.

As soon as the commission began looking at Silver's outside income, he allegedly became instrumental in persuading Gov. Andrew Cuomo to shut down the investigation. The federal government then picked it up.

The Democrat has since resigned as speaker but has said he intends to keep his Assembly seat.

Silver's arrest rocked the state Capitol, even though state lawmakers' arrests have become ruefully common. Some 28 New York legislators have stepped down because of criminal or ethical issues in the past 15 years. Four others remain in office while they fight charges, including Silver.

A day after announcing Silver's January arrest, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told a breakfast meeting at a law school that it sometimes seems as if Albany had become a "cauldron of corruption."

He was particularly critical of what he called a "three-men-in-a-room" system of government that put too much control in the hands of the state's governor, Assembly speaker and Senate president.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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