There’s not enough proof that ex-state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver committed a crime by sending a doctor $500,000 in taxpayer research grants in return for the names of people sick with mesothelioma, one of his lawyers argued Wednesday.
That’s because Silver never explicitly promised anything to Dr. Robert Taub of Columbia Medical Center in return for the names, lawyer Meir Feder told a three-judge appeals panel in Manhattan Federal Court.
Taub helped Silver earn millions in legal fees by giving him the names of his patients, which Silver turned over to his colleagues at the Weitz & Luxenberg law firm.
Weitz & Luxenberg paid Silver $3.1 million in fees it took from the patients’ cases.
“The crime is exchanging something for it — promising to do something in return,” Feder argued. He said there wasn’t enough evidence that Silver explicitly promised the $500,000 in state grants or anything else to Taub.
A government lawyer countered that argument by saying Silver knew exactly what he was doing when he sent an intermediary to tell Taub: “Shelly wants cases.”
“Sheldon Silver knew what made Dr. Taub tick,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal. “What made Dr.Taub tick was support for mesothelioma (research) and prestige.”
The prestige part came in May 2011 when Silver got the state Assembly to approve a resolution honoring Taub’s cancer research work.
Silver was convicted in May 2018 of seven corruption counts at his second trial. His earlier conviction on the same charges in November 2015 was overturned on appeal.
In both cases Silver was convicted of using his office to illicitly earn nearly $4 million — the $3.1 million from Weitz & Luxenberg, and another $835,000 from real estate developers who hired Silver pal Jay Goldberg to pursue property tax appeals.
Silver never appeared in court on behalf of any clients — the money was paid to him as referral fees.
Silver, 75, a Lower East Side resident, did not appear at Wednesday’s hearing. He remains free on bail. If he loses his appeal, he will have to start serving a seven-year prison sentence.