Manhattan's U.S. Attorney's Office is gearing up for a corruption trial against former Assembly speaker and Lower East Side power broker Sheldon Silver, and on Friday prosecutors peppered the court record with further details of Silver's underhanded dealings. The alleged misbehavior laid out in the recent court filings is not central to the corruption, extortion, and money laundering charges against Silver, but the feds argue the accounts are relevant to those crimes, and to Silver and others' states of mind at various points from 2000 to his arrest early this year.
For instance, there is also the letter Silver wrote in 2011 to Dr. Robert Taub, the mesothelioma researcher who he allegedly milked for referral fees in exchange for secretly steering $500,000 in research funding to Taub's Mesothelioma Research Center. In the letter, regarding a Miles for Meso charity walk fundraiser, Silver extended an offer to "help you navigate this process." Emailing a walk organizer, Taub wrote, "It will probably cost us. [Silver] is very good at getting people to owe him. But if he says he will deliver, he does." Prosecutors also state that Silver helped to get Taub's relative a job using his power as speaker.
Silver is also accused of leaning on developer and big-time political donor Glenwood Management to steer tax legal work to a law firm in exchange for kickbacks from the law firm and favors for Glenwood. Among those favors, the feds write, were his twice blocking drug-treatment clinics near the company's luxury high-rise in the Financial District at 10 Liberty St. The first time, in 2011, when prosecutors say Silver blocked a methadone clinic at 90 Maiden Lane, Glenwood sent a letter to residents praising the "outstanding efforts of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver," and noting that he "sprung into action as soon as it was revealed that this application was pending." The second time, emailing about news of a planned substance abuse center at 75 Maiden Lane in 2013, a Glenwood rep purportedly emailed a company lobbyist saying, "I thought Shelly killed this damn thing." That move did not come to be, either.
Silver's lawyers want these types of tidbits kept out of the trial, for obvious reasons. They also want to present character witnesses, but if the judge allows it, the feds are demanding the opportunity to discuss the letter Silver wrote in February 2009 to then-finance commissioner Martha Stark protesting recent property tax increases at four buildings in his district, neglecting to mention that his apartment is in one of them. They would also like the opportunity to note that time that the New York Times published an expose documenting how Silver spent four decades behind the scenes keeping three square blocks of the Lower East Side vacant so that affordable housing wouldn't be built for low-income, mostly Puerto Rican people, and Silver responded by demanding a correction, arguing that another Sheldon Silver was responsible for the 1970s advocacy.
That was a lie that, prosecutors argue, offers "a more complete picture of Silver's character."
In federal court in Albany on Monday, former Queens assemblyman William Scarborough was sentenced to 13 months in prison for fraud and theft. Scarborough pleaded guilty in May to submitting at least $40,000 in fake travel vouchers for days he didn’t actually go to Albany. That's on top of $38,000 in unauthorized campaign withdrawals that he copped to in state court this spring.
Speaking today, Scarborough chalked the decisions up to "profound stupidity," and said, "I have shamed my family, I let my community down, I have given up my job as opposed to serving my community."