It’s all over the newspaper today, with headlines like “BombShel” and “Silver Lining Crook Book,” that the long-time Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, has been hit with fraud and corruption charges by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. Everyone is talking about the accusations – Silver allegedly received millions of dollars over about a dozen years from two law firms for referrals in exchange for political favors. But what, exactly, is Silver charged with?
Silver has been charged with five counts in a criminal complaint. First, keep in mind that a criminal complaint is merely the beginning of a criminal prosecution in federal court. In order for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to pursue this case, they will have to present evidence before a grand jury, which would have to vote an indictment. Only then could the case proceed to trial. Many have said that the government could indict a ham sandwich – and in this case, given the details in the criminal complaint, appears to be a likely scenario.
One other possibility is that Silver could enter into a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and plead guilty to what is called an Information. It has the same legal power and effect as an indictment, but would not require the U.S. Attorney to present evidence to a grand jury. Only time will tell which way it will go. Continue reading