Sheldon Silver, for decades one of the most powerful politicians in New York state, was convicted Monday of honest-services fraud, extortion and money laundering in a trial that is likely to reshape the business of Albany and embolden prosecutors with an appetite for public-corruption cases aimed at the Capitol.
The Democratic speaker of the New York state Assembly for more than 20 years, Mr. Silver was found guilty by a 12-person federal jury in Manhattan of four counts of honest-services fraud, two counts of extortion, and one count of money laundering.
His conviction triggers his automatic expulsion from the Legislature, to which he was first elected in 1976.
The verdict brings a stunning end to the lengthy political career of Mr. Silver, 71 years old, who stood as one of the most powerful if inscrutable figures in Albany, presiding over a tightly controlled Democratic conference and earning a reputation as a masterful negotiator against the governor and other legislative leaders.
And it offers one of the most significant victories in the tenure of Manhattan U.S Attorney Preet Bharara, who has made no secret of his intention to pursue the “caldron of corruption” in Albany, and who had been accused by some of prosecutorial overreach.
In a statement released after the conviction, Mr. Bharara said: “Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York.”
Mr. Silver’s case, along with the concurrent trial of state Sen. Dean Skelos, also at the hands of Mr. Bharara, are among New York’s highest-profile public-corruption trials in decades.
The verdict in Mr. Silver’s trial hands Mr. Bharara, whose office has achieved convictions in a string of rank-and-file Albany politicians, his biggest win in that area. It follows a significant recent loss in another, insider trading, when the Supreme Court in October declined to review a ruling that made it harder to prove such crimes.
That decision resulted in his abandonment of a high-profile insider-trading case, that of former SAC Capital Advisors LP portfolio manager Michael Steinberg and six analysts.
In the trial of Mr. Silver, Mr. Bharara’s prosecutors used the case to expose the extreme consolidation of the speaker’s political power and his ability to exploit New York’s system of a part-time Legislature to line his pockets.
Behind Mr. Silver’s legislative success, they said, was a two-pronged scheme that used his political might to earn him millions in private gain. While serving as speaker, the jury found, Mr. Silver conducted dual plots: In one, he directed $500,000 in state grants to the research of an oncologist, Robert Taub, in exchange for patients referrals that earned Mr. Silver fees from the law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg PC.
In the other, he allegedly negotiated state tax breaks favorable to Glenwood Management Corp., a developer and major political donor, while steering its business to another law firm, Goldberg & Iryami PC, that also paid Mr. Silver referral fees.
Over the years, the two schemes netted Mr. Silver about $4 million in illegal gains.
A sentencing date wasn’t set for Mr. Silver, who faces up to 20 years in prison as the result of his conviction.
“I’m disappointed right now,” he said upon exiting the courthouse. “Ultimately I believe that after the legal challenges we’ll get results”
Mr. Silver’s attorney Steven Molo said he would appeal.