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New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver To Step Down By Monday

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Embattled New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver has agreed to step down by Monday of next week, in the wake of federal corruption charges.

As CBS2's Jessica Schneider reported, Democratic leaders met for two days, and finally decided Tuesday night to force the powerful assembly speaker to step down.

"I don't know what decision my colleagues made," Silver said. "I made a decision that I will not hinder this process."

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester) announced the move Tuesday. Morelle will serve as acting speaker until a new one is elected by Feb. 10.

``He said to me he will not impede the transition,'' said Morelle, surrounded by most of the 105 Assembly Democrats. ``We'll have a vacancy on Monday.''

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver To Step Down By Monday

Sources told CBS2 Silver will step down from the speaker post, but will remain a member of the Assembly.

As majority leader, the No. 2 post in the chamber, Morelle will be the interim speaker from the moment Silver resigns until the lawmakers formally convene again Monday. At that point, they plan to amend their rules to keep him as interim speaker until Feb. 10. That's intended to give any other member a chance to express interest and explain how he or she would lead, said Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti.

Silver did not address his colleagues or reporters on Tuesday but late Monday night said he expected to be exonerated. It is unclear whether Silver plans to resign or whether his tenure will be formally ended Monday by legislative action. Messages left with Silver's office were not returned.

Previously, a spokesman said Silver would not step down.

"The Speaker is not stepping down,'' spokesman Michael Whyland said on Monday. "He is appointing a group of senior members to undertake various responsibilities such as budget negotiations to ensure a timely spending plan for the state. This will give him the flexibility he needs so that he can defend himself against these charges.''

Members of the Assembly said Silver's criminal charges had become a distraction and a problem for entire chamber.

``There is a strong sense among members it would be best for the speaker to step down and for this body to elect a new speaker,'' Assembly member Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) said Tuesday. ``There is a lot of hard work ahead to move ahead and unite the body behind a new speaker who can best represent the entire state, champion reforms and restore confidence in the Assembly.''

She noted, though, that the chamber and Silver have been instrumental in raising New York's minimum wage, legalizing same-sex marriage, funding prekindergarten and other progressive measures.

Silver had one vocal ally remaining. Mayor Bill de Blasio has called Silver ``a man of integrity'' and said Tuesday that he shouldn't resign. He added that people have to respect the Assembly's decision, but ``it's crucially important'' that there is leadership that's fair to the city, which often doesn't get its fair share from the state government.

Some legislators also want rules changed to lessen the central power of the speaker's office and seniority system, establish more transparency in how the chamber operates and make decisions and give the chairmen of Assembly committees more authority.

Silver, a Lower Manhattan Democrat, was taken into custody Thursday morning by the FBI. He faces five counts including conspiracy and bribery. He was released later in the day on $200,000 bail.

He is accused of using his position as one of the state's most powerful politicians to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income.

EXTRA: Click Here To Read The Full Complaint

If convicted, Silver could face a sentence of up to 100 years in prison.

The criminal complaint says there is probable cause to believe that Silver obtained about $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees through the corrupt use of his official position.

"As alleged, Silver corruptly used his law license and took advantage of lax outside income rules as a cover to secretly pocket millions of dollars through his official position," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Silver's attorney, Joel Cohen, calls the charges "meritless.'' Whyland said Silver is "confident that he will be found innocent.''

Silver is currently the nation's second longest-serving speaker and considered one of the most powerful men in New York state.

(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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