In advising the justices to deny the appeal from Silver, a Democrat, former Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall argued that he engaged in “multiple schemes to use his political positions to enrich himself.” In one example, the government alleges Silver accepted thousands of dollars from two real estate developers in exchange for taking official action that benefited developers.
In court papers asking the justices to take up his case, Silver’s lawyer argued his conviction “places every state official at the mercy of federal prosecutors seeking to criminalize lawful political conduct that offends them, with only a jury’s speculation about the official’s inner thoughts standing between the official and a federal penitentiary.”
The former speaker argued that his conviction is invalid because it lacks proof of an “agreed upon exchange.”
“Every public official risks indictment if they show any favoritism to a donor or a constituent who has taken the official out to lunch,” Meir Feder, one of Silver’s lawyers, told the court.
Silver, while serving as speaker, also earned outside income as an attorney in private practice as permitted by New York law. He was indicted in 2015, charging that some of his law practice income amounted to bribes in violation of the honest services fraud statute.
In past cases, the Supreme Court has ruled against the government for using vague federal criminals against government officials.
Silver is currently serving a 78-month prison sentence, which will be followed by two years of supervised release.