ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The speaker of the New York state Assembly plans to temporarily cede power to a small group of top lawmakers as he fights federal corruption charges.
A spokesman for Speaker Sheldon Silver said the Manhattan Democrat plans to brief Democratic members of the Assembly on his intentions Monday.
"The Speaker is not stepping down,'' said spokesman Michael Whyland. "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.''
Silver 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.
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.''
Baruch College Public Affairs Professor Doug Muzzio said Silver will remain speaker unless he's convicted or removed by the Democratic conference.
"By law he can remain until or if he is convicted of a felony," he said. "Does he remain is question one and the other question is what do the members of the Assembly want?
Silver has served as speaker of the Democrat-controlled Assembly for more than two decades and is one of the most influential people in New York state government.
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