Outrageous: Shelly Silver, one of the worst abusers of the public trust in recent New York history, just got his 2015 conviction tossed on technical grounds.
Prosecutors promise a new trial, but justice has already been delayed far too long here.
A federal appeals court Thursday tossed the former Assembly speaker’s 2015 corruption conviction because a later Supreme Court ruling tweaked the rules for what counts as political corruption.
Yet the same 2nd Circuit of Appeals had just affirmed the bribery conviction of ex-Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. despite similar issues.
And the evidence against Silver proves corruption under the new rules as well as the old.
- The then-speaker funneled some $500,000 in state grants to a doctor who, in turn, sent patients to Silver’s law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg — which then paid Silver for the referrals.
- In another scheme, Silver voted to OK tax-exempt financing for a real-estate developer, Glenwood Management, and for favorable rent- and tax-abatement laws. In exchange, Glenwood took some work to the firm of another Silver pal, which in turn paid “fees” to the speaker.
Silver pocketed at least $4 million from these kickbacks.
At trial, his defense boiled down to “everybody does it.” But while the Legislature is indeed profoundly corrupt, that doesn’t make any of it legal.
And certainly not these abuses of power by a man who ruled as speaker for more than two decades.
Yes, the Supreme Court last year tossed the corruption conviction of ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell over too-broad instructions to the jury about what defines “official acts.” But Silver’s case involved far more clear-cut bribes — and more clear-cut abuse of power — than McDonnell’s.
Yet somehow the 2nd Circuit thinks a “rational jury” might not have found Silver guilty if it had been “properly instructed.”
Let’s hope prosecutors move quickly to a new trial. The best medicine for New York’s rampant corruption is swift, harsh punishment for the abusers. And Silver, 73, has already been free for far too long.
Sheldon Silver’s corruption conviction overturned, documents show
A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s corruption conviction, according to court documents.
In March federal prosecutors in the Silver case faced sharp questioning the appeals panel, which was worried about whether the conviction could survive a new U.S. Supreme Court decision narrowing the scope of “official acts” that can be the subject of a bribe.
“You went to trial on the theory that anything Sheldon Silver did in connection with his role as speaker was an official act,” said Judge William Sessions. “That’s something totally different from what’s now the government action required. How do you know the jury would have made the same decision?”
The arguments provided a first glimpse of how the 2nd U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Manhattan would interpret the high court’s 2016 ruling in a case involving former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, which held prosecutors must show an actual exercise of government power, not just a meeting or phone call.
It drew an overflow crowd, including prosecution and defense lawyers prepping to argue the same issues on the conviction of former Senate leader Dean Skelos, as well as U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, who presided at Skelos’ trial, and new Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim.
Silver was convicted in 2015 of sponsoring grants and doing other favors for an asbestos doctor who referred patients to the Speaker’s law firm, and also collecting legal referral fees from real estate developers whose legislation he supported. The Democrat was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but has remained free while appealing.
Steve Molo, Silver’s lawyer, said the former Speaker deserved a new trial because the evidence included both actual exercises of government power and lesser favors — like meeting with real estate donors and job references for the doctor’s children.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni’s instructions gave jurors the latitude to convict on either, he argued. “It was inconsistent with what the law is now,” Molo said.
But prosecutor Andrew Goldstein contended that the case involved actual legislative acts, not just the constituent courtesies the Supreme Court said were insufficient in McDonnell’s case.
“This case involved far more than meetings and introductions and nothing more,” he said. “ engaged in official decision-making to benefit the people who were paying him.”
When the judges cited lesser favors which prosecutors had also argued were official acts, Goldstein said they were all part of a larger “scheme,” and were elevated by Silver’s power and clout.
But Judge Richard Wesley objected to that claim. “Then any powerful person who wants you to do something is committing a crime?” he said. “Is every invitation to a fundraiser a crime?”
Please see the article in its original format on Newsday by clicking here.
FOR FURTHER READING:
Conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver overturned
LAW ENFORCEMENT, THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM: CRIMES COMMITTED REPRESENT AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT – LM:
A police officer trades gun licenses for money and favors thereby committing one or several crimes. He defiles the very institution of criminal justice. A Brooklyn prosecutor involved in this scheme is not only committing a crime but violating the very tenets of the legal system and his oath as an attorney.
All of this is in the name of personal gain.
Is the law enforcement officer not also rigging the job market for other police officers? Is he not manipulating the tax system used to pay the salaries of those officers? Is the prosecutor not also potentially creating more work for himself, thereby increasing dependence upon him and the office in which he sits?
We posit that corruption within the ranks of law enforcement, the justice system, the legal profession and the supporting political system represents an existential threat to our survival and should be viewed under that lens.
The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/25/nyregion/3-former-police-officers-and-a-former-prosecutor-are-charged-in-widening-corruption-investigation.html?_r=0
3 Retired Officers and Ex-Prosecutor Charged in Graft Inquiry
Three retired police officers and a former Brooklyn prosecutor were charged on Tuesday in a widening federal corruption investigation into the New York City Police Department and its gun-licensing division.
The charges revolve around a scheme in which so-called gun-licensing expediters bribed police officers in exchange for approvals of hard-to-obtain gun permits, according to two criminal complaints unsealed on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The complaints also show that a former New York police sergeant, David Villanueva, and a gun-license expediter who interacted frequently with the department’s license division have pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges and are cooperating with the authorities.
The charges are the most significant development in the long-running police corruption inquiry since June, when two police commanders were arrested and accused of accepting expensive gifts from two politically connected businessmen in return for illicit favors. Sergeant Villanueva and an officer were also charged at the time in relation to the gun-licensing scheme.
The former officers charged on Tuesday were Paul Dean, who had been a lieutenant, and Robert Espinel; both had been assigned to the license division. A third defendant, Gaetano Valastro, who retired as a detective in 1999, owned and operated a store in Queens that sold firearms and related equipment and also provided firearms training courses, the complaint says.
All three men were charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery; Mr. Dean and Mr. Espinel were also charged with one count of extortion and Mr. Valastro with one count of making false statements.
The former prosecutor who was charged is John Chambers, a lawyer who specialized in helping clients navigate the gun application process in both New York City and Nassau County. He was charged with bribery and conspiracy.
Mr. Chambers gave then-Sergeant Villanueva of the gun-licensing division tickets to Broadway shows, a Paul Picot watch valued at $8,000, tickets to sporting events, sports memorabilia and cash, according to a criminal complaint sworn by an F.B.I. agent. In return, Sergeant Villanueva “ensured that renewals of N.Y.P.D. gun licenses for Chambers’ clients were approved significantly faster,” the complaint charges.
Mr. Chambers was an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
The charges were announced at a news conference on Tuesday by Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan; William F. Sweeney, the head of the F.B.I.’s New York field office; and James P. O’Neill, the police commissioner. The F.B.I. has been conducting the investigation with the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau since 2013.
The charges come weeks after a Brooklyn man, Alex Lichtenstein, was sentenced to 32 months in prison on charges that he paid police officials thousands of dollars in bribes to obtain expedited handgun licenses for his clients.
Alex Lichtenstein of Pomona, a volunteer for the Brooklyn Borough Park Shomrim, sold the licenses for up to $18,000 each, prosecutors said.
Ex-correction union boss Norman Seabrook wasn’t properly supervised and showered execs with ‘luxury gifts,’ suit says
Correction union execs weren’t keeping an eye on now-indicted ex-president Norman Seabrook when he invested pension money in a “Ponzi scheme” – because he had long showered them with gifts such as cars, a new lawsuit alleges.
The feds have alleged Murray Huberfeld, who ran an investment firm called Platinum Partners, agreed to give Seabrook a kickback in late 2013 — so he would invest union money in one of its high-risk funds.
Seabrook dumped some $20 million of Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association money into Platinum Partners in 2014.
That December, Seabrook received a $60,000 cash kickback in an $800 Ferragamo bag and became “angry,” griping it wasn’t enough, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has alleged.
Sources previously told the Daily News that the middleman who delivered the money to Seabrook was Jona Rechnitz, a major donor to de Blasio’s mayoral bid and the now-shuttered Campaign for One New York.
Platinum Partners has since declared bankruptcy, however – making COBA’s investments in the fund “virtually worthless,” according to the Manhattan federal court lawsuit, filed by Jeffrey Norton, of Newman Ferrara, and Philip Seelig. Seelig was COBA president from 1979 to 1992.
Seabrook got away with investing in Platinum — without COBA’s executive board knowing or approving the investment — because execs “had, for years, failed to supervise Seabrook in any meaningful way,” the suit charges.
“Indeed, Seabrook had ensured the Executive Board’s quiescence through liberal dispensations of gift cards, cars, and plush job assignments away from Rikers Island, which ensured they exercised no due diligence over Seabrook’s activities,” court papers say.
The suit also slams COBA’s law firm, Koehler & Isaacs LLP, as being “more loyal to Seabrook than to COBA” — and distracting union leadership — to protect its business interests.
“Although Koehler & Isaacs knew that Seabrook had made the high stakes investment, its contract with COBA could be imperiled if Koehler & Isaacs made any representations that called into question Seabrook’s activities,” court papers say.
“Accordingly, Koehler & Isaacs neither advised nor warned the Executive Board about the investment.
“Instead, Koehler & Isaacs helped Seabrook co-opt the Executive Board by providing the members with GPS devices and other luxury gifts,” the suit says.
COBA President Elias Husamudeen said in a statement to The News that the filing is “yet another frivolous suit” brought by those who have an axe to grind with the union.
“The fact of the matter is that no matter how many lawsuits are brought against our union, we remain focused on representing and fighting for our members, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Husamudeen said.
Koehler & Isaacs also shot back at the suit, calling the allegations “salacious” and misleading.
“The facts will show that Koehler & Isaacs, along with COBA’s financial advisors, performed a thorough and diligent vetting of the union’s investment in Platinum Partners, which at the time of the investment, produced among the highest returns for investors in the hedge fund industry,” the firm said in a statement.
To read the remainder of the article click here.
THE NEW YORK POST:
Troubled hedge fund Platinum Partners — which is holding $20 million in pension money for the city’s prison-guards union — is officially under new management, The Post has learned.
A Cayman Islands judge has ordered that liquidation firm RHSW Caribbean take control of Platinum’s flagship fund amid concerns about its ability to repay investors, according to a letter to investors obtained by The Post.
The new managers said they plan to meet with Platinum’s investors, including the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, on Sept. 28.
Ex-COBA president Norman Seabrook invested members’ pension money in Platinum, as well as the union’s operational funds.
Investors have been clamoring for answers following the June arrest of Platinum co-founder Murray Huberfeld, who was charged with paying bribes to get his hands on COBA’s money from Seabrook, who has also been charged in the alleged scheme.
In July, Platinum’s New York offices were raided by the FBI.
TO READ THE ARTICLE IN ITS ENTIRETY CLICK HERE.
GUEST AUTHOR: ERIK AIKEN, www.protectjewishkids.com
How the Brooklyn D.A. covers-up Orthodox child molesters, 2 of 2
This is the second in a 2-part series
In my first article, I wrote how a year and a half ago I made a public record request for the photos and arrest reports of 15 Orthodox men convicted by the Brooklyn D.A. The D.A. refused to give me any of the information that I requested.
Last week, I made a new Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the Brooklyn D.A. (Brooklyn D.A. FOIL request) I asked for the photo, arrest report, case disposition (the court’s decision) and length of jail time served (if any) of 29 Orthodox individuals arrested for, or convicted of, child sex crimes by the Brooklyn D.A.
The following day, the D.A.’s office sent me a 3-page letter denying every request, for every individual. They refused to reveal to me a single case disposition or tell me how long a convicted Orthodox child molester spent in jail or even if they went to jail.
In 80% of the more than 3 dozen Orthodox convictions that I investigated in Brooklyn, the molester received probation or only a few months of jail time. By contrast, even though Federal child sex crimes are not necessarily more severe or heinous than the ones prosecuted by the Brooklyn D.A., every Federal conviction of an Orthodox child molester that I could find resulted in jail time, usually for many years.
As to my request for the molester’s photos, the D.A. told me that they would make me wait 6 months before releasing them to me. I filed an appeal of this ridiculous stonewalling and the D.A.’s office rejected my appeal.
New York’s public records law requires that documents be given to the requester within 20 days or “within a reasonable period” – Public Officer’s Law 89(3). Having public access to governmental records is a fundamental right of American citizens. This is the only way we can know what our government is doing and be able to hold officials accountable.
There is nothing “reasonable” about withholding photos of convicted Orthodox child molesters for 6 months. There is no justification for refusing to release conviction information about Orthodox child molesters or informing me of how much time they spent in jail, if any. In the time it took the D.A.’s office to write their 3-page laundry list of excuses of why they aren’t going to comply with the law, they could have instead provided me with the records that I requested.
Not only does current Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth Thompson refuse to release public records of Orthodox child molesters requested under FOIL, Thompson is also ethically-challenged in other ways.
Just last week, Thompson was fined $15,000 by the New York City Conflicts of Interests Board for using New York City police officers as his personal waiters and delivery boys to buy him thousands of dollars of meals, all at taxpayer expense. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/nyregion/ken-thompson-brooklyn-district-attorney-conflict-of-interest-case.html
When Kenneth Thompson ran for office, he promised to change the corrupt ways of his predecessor, Charles Hynes. “For his part, Thompson openly criticized Hynes’ record on crimes committed by the ultra-Orthodox. “Every community in Brooklyn has to be treated the same,” he said. “When I become Brooklyn DA, I’ll make sure there’s equal justice for everyone, under the law.” The Daily Beast – 2013
Among other things, Hynes was notorious for refusing to release to the public the identities of Orthodox child sex predators that he convicted, in contravention of standard practice by other D.A.’s. The covering-up of Orthodox child molesters by the Brooklyn D.A. allows rabbis to pretend that there isn’t a rampant child sex abuse crisis in Orthodox synagogues, schools, yeshivas, summer camps and mikvehs.
The Brooklyn D.A.’s failure to stop rabbinic witness intimidation
“…witness intimidation, a problem in the ultra-Orthodox community that District Attorney Charles Hynes himself has acknowledged is worse than anything he has seen even in organized crime and police corruption cases.” The Jewish Week – 6-26-12
“Hynes claims that his office has received numerous “allegations that some rabbis were actively counseling, intimidating and harassing victims of sexual abuse, coercing them from reporting abuse to authorities” The Jewish Week – 5-17-2012
The office of the Brooklyn D.A. publicly acknowledges that rabbis violate the law and coerce, threaten and punish victims to prevent them from testifying against their Orthodox abuser and that it’s worse than the Mafia. Nevertheless, Thompson has not prosecuted a single rabbi or their surrogates for witness intimidation.
Here’s how the Brooklyn D.A. protects Orthodox kids from sexual predators
Moshe Spitzer was charged with 135 counts of abuse, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of sodomy, was sentenced to 2 years in prison and was released after serving 3 months.
Andrew Goodman was charged with 114 counts of abuse. He was sentenced to 2 years in jail. When released, Goodman took one of his former victims across state lines and sodomized him. Taking a child across state lines to abuse him is a Federal crime. The Feds convicted him for that one act and got Goodman sentenced to 10 years to life.
Shimon Benisty was convicted of molesting 2 young girls and deemed a “sexually violent offender”. He was only sentenced to 11 months in prison. Upon release, he was deported to Israel where he was convicted of abusing 11 more children.
Mendy Tevel was charged with 37 counts of child sex crimes, some of them felonies that could have sent him to prison for life. He was sentenced to just 1 year in jail and was released after serving 7 months. He is not on the NY sex offender registry and reportedly now lives in Beverly Hills, CA. He was recently videoed roaming the halls of an Orthodox children’s school nearby.
Baruch Lebovits was sentenced to up to 32 years in prison for child sexual abuse. Due to the Brooklyn D.A.’s bungling of the case, Lebovits spent less than 16 months in prison.
Yona Weinberg is a convicted, level-3 child sex offender (the most dangerous tier) who is wanted by the Brooklyn D.A. on additional charges. Weinberg sent me a letter (Yona Weinberg lawyer letter and Israeli lawyer) from his lawyers that insist that Weinberg is not wanted by the police. (Note the unauthorized FBI watermark on the first and second pages). I spoke to NYPD fugitive task force Detective Kevin Lapin (who has Weinberg’s case) on 6/15/2016 and he told me that Weinberg is wanted and has been wanted since 9/10/14. Weinberg flew to Israel the next day. According to several victim advocates in Israel that I contacted, the Brooklyn D.A. is doing nothing to extradite Weinberg.
Rabbi Gershon Kranczer and his son, Asher Kranczer, both fled to Israel 6 years ago before they could be arrested on horrific child sexual abuse charges. Kranczer’s wife was reported to have driven them to the airport. The D.A. didn’t prosecute her.
Rabbi Kranczer has another son, Yechezkel, who didn’t escape and was charged with 72 counts of child sexual abuse. Yechezkel was convicted and given probation.
I asked the D.A. why they haven’t extradited either Kranczer from Israel and they told me it was part of an “ongoing investigation”. Really? Doing nothing for 6 years constitutes an ongoing investigation?
Meilech Schnitzler was convicted of throwing bleach into the eyes of child victim advocate, Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg. Schnitzler didn’t serve a day in jail. Thompson defended the total absence of punishment by saying that Schnitzler “will have to take an anger management class” New York Post, 6-18-14.
Mr. Thompson – Meilech Schnitzler doesn’t need an anger management class, he needs jail time.