Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sheldon Silver corruption trial set to begin next month; Former NY assembly speaker drops key witness

By The Madison County Record | Oct 10, 2015


NEW YORK CITY – Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, facing a corruption trial, won’t call to the witness stand a professor who blessed his cozy position in the asbestos firm of Weitz and Luxenburg.

On Sept. 30, Silver abandoned his argument that Roy Simon of Hofstra School of Law exonerated him in a report to Weitz and Luxenburg.

He declared he doesn’t intend to call Simon as an expert witness, relieving U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni of the need to decide whether to admit his report.

Silver had previously presented the report as evidence for dismissing all charges.

Caproni plans to start trial on Nov 2.

Agents took custody of Silver in January, after U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged that he deprived New York state citizens of his honest services.

Bharara charged that Silver used his power and influence to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks that he masked as legitimate income.

According to the charges, Weitz and Luxenburg hired Silver in 2002, as “of counsel,” with an annual salary of $120,000.

Bharara charged that when Silver referred an asbestos client to the firm, he received 33 percent of the firm’s share in any recovery.

From 2003 to 2014, Silver allegedly maintained a corrupt relationship with a doctor who referred mesothelioma clients from his research center. Silver also is alleged to have secretly directed $500,000 in state funds to the doctor’s research center, along with other official benefits.

Bharara charged that Silver stopped taking referrals from the doctor’s research center and started taking them from a different center for a different firm.

The charges didn’t identify the first doctor, but it provided enough clues to identify him as Robert Taub of Columbia University.

Columbia fired him.

The charges didn’t name the second firm that received referrals but provided enough clues to identify it as the firm of John Simmons in Alton.

In the national asbestos litigation industry, Weitz and Luxenburg and the Simmons firm stand at the summit or near it.

In 2008, Weitz and Luxenburg contributed more money to Presidential candidate Joe Biden than any other source, and Simmons supplied nearly as much.

After Bharara filed the charges, Weitz and Luxenberg placed Silver on leave of absence and hired Simon to review its payments.

On Feb. 11, New York Law Journal reported that Simon found nothing wrong.

Simon told the journal he met with Perry Weitz and Arthur Luxenberg, and found they had a legitimate relationship with Silver.

He told the journal that Silver had a permanent office at the firm and was there regularly when not in Albany.

“They didn’t do anything wrong to give Sheldon Silver a share of fees for cases that were traceable to Sheldon Silver,” Simon was quoted as saying.

Grand jurors indicted Silver on Feb. 19.

He moved to dismiss the charges, claiming U.S. Attorney Bharara prejudiced all prospective jurors with public statements.

Caproni denied the motion.

Silver moved to dismiss again, for failure to establish a conspiracy, and moved to dismiss yet again when Bharara amended the complaint.

Silver relied on Simon’s report to argue that Silver earned what he received.

Caproni denied the motions and set trial.

On Sept. 14, Bharara moved to exclude Simon’s report.

“Silver has been charged with federal crimes, not state crimes or violations of attorney ethics rules,” he wrote.

Bharara wrote that Silver misleadingly sought to portray Simon’s consultation with Weitz and Luxenburg as proof that he did nothing wrong.

He wrote that Simon didn’t consider facts known to Silver but not to Weitz and Luxenburg, nor whether Silver violated rules of professional conduct.

“Nor did Professor Simon’s inquiry include any consideration or investigation of whether Silver had violated the federal laws criminalizing extortion, honest services fraud, and money laundering, or any state laws,” he wrote.

He wrote that if Caproni permitted testimony about Simon’s consultation, she would risk confusing or misleading the jury.

He wrote that if she permitted it, he might be compelled to argue that Silver in fact violated state law against bribery and conflicts of interest.

Sixteen days later, Silver scratched Simon from his witness list.

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Organizations in this Story

Hofstra UniversityWeitz and LuxenbergSimmons Hanly Conroy