N.Y. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Arrested Over Alleged Corruption

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New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, center, listens as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo makes an inaugural address at One World Trade Center in New York, Jan. 1, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Sheldon Silver, a Jewish Democrat who has served as New York State Assembly speaker for over two decades, was arrested as part of a corruption investigation.

Silver, according to The New York Times, surrendered Thursday to FBI agents for allegedly receiving payments from a law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, without properly disclosing them. The arrest stems from an anti-corruption investigation launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013.

Silver, who represents Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has earned a reputation as a powerful leader of New York Democrats during more than two decades serving as speaker of the Assembly, the lower house of the State Legislature. He was reelected to the post last month and may serve while under arrest, but would have to resign if convicted.

Silver, 70, practices as an attorney outside of his duties as a politician. In 2013 he earned a total income of $650,000, the Times reported.

The law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, specializes in minimizing its clients' real estate tax payments in New York City. By law, the receipt of such payments must be disclosed in annual financial disclosure filings, which Silver failed to do. 

While it remains unclear as to how much Silver was paid by the firm, another person told the Times that the total sum was considerable and was paid over a number of years. 

Both Silver and his lawyer, Joel Cohen, have refused to respond to questions regarding the investigation or his connection with the law firm, though the speaker has previously denied accusations that he has failed to properly disclose all his sources of income. According to the Times, when asked earlier this month to shed light on investigations into the payments made by Goldberg & Iryami, Silver replied that there's “nothing to shed.” 

The investigation into Silver began under the anti-corruption Moreland Commission, which was created – and then suddenly closed down – by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The inquiry was charged with investigating New York State lawmakers' outside incomes (legislators are permitted to hold part-time jobs). 

In addition to the alleged payments made to Silver by Goldberg & Iryami, in 2014 federal prosecutors in the office of the U.S attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, subpoenaed documents from another law firm that apparently also made payments to Silver. Citing another person with knowledge of the case, the Times reports that Silver also did not disclose said payments. 

Silver, first elected as speaker in 2014 and re-elected earlier this month, is considered the most powerful Democrat in Albany, and has a reputation for being a deft negotiator, according to the Times. An Orthodox Jew, Silver is an alumnus of Yeshiva University and Brooklyn Law School.

Speaker Silver has previously come under criticism for maintaining an outside law firm, which netted him $650,000 in 2013, and has failed to provide details as to what work he has performed to warrant such high income. Also, Silver has been criticized for tolerating sexual harassment in the New York Assembly, according to the Times.

Under the law, New York state lawmakers can continue to serve in their roles if arrested, but must vacate their position if they are convicted of a crime. 

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