Conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver overturned

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Political reporter Dave Evans has details on the overturned conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. (AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith)

The conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was overturned Thursday morning by a federal appeals court, citing a recent Supreme Court ruling on corruption prosecutions.

Silver, once one of the state's most powerful politicians, was convicted of obtaining nearly $4 million in payments in return for official actions that benefited others.

But the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan concluded, in light of the Supreme Court's Bob McDonnell decision that narrowed the definition of official conduct, that the jury instructions given by the judge in Silver's trial were erroneous and that a properly instructed jury might not have convicted him.

"While the Government presented evidence of acts that remain 'official' under McDonnell, the jury may have convicted Silver for conduct that is not unlawful, and a properly instructed jury might have reached a different conclusion," the panel wrote.

"We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts," said Silver's lawyers, Steven Molo and Joel Cohen.

An acting U.S. attorney says prosecutors will retry Silver on corruption charges.

Joon H. Kim issued a statement Thursday shortly after the appeals court decision.

Kim said the 2nd Circuit found that the evidence at trial was sufficient to prove crimes charged against the 73-year-old Democrat, even under the new legal standard described by the high court when it reversed the conviction of McDonnell.

Kim said that although justice will be delayed, prosecutors do not expect justice to be denied.

Former Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam are also appealing their corruption convictions by citing the same Supreme Court decision.

The Skeloses' appeals have not yet been argued.

Both Silver's and the Skeloses' convictions were the culmination of a campaign against corruption in Albany led by Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

The McDonnell ruling says that official action must involve formal and concrete government actions or decisions, such as filing a lawsuit or holding a hearing, not just making phone calls or setting up meetings.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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