Its not likely that either New York State prosecutors or New York criminal defense attorneys see many of these types of offenses as they are more commonly prosecuted by Federal prosecutors, but New York State has a government defrauding statute on the books. Codified in New York Penal Law 195.20, it is a felony crime to defraud the government. Defrauding the Government is a Class E felony. Like all felonies of this severity or level, a conviction for this offense does not carry a mandatory term of incarceration, but due to the nature of the crime it certainly would not be surprising for a judge to sentence a convicted defendant to prison. If that happened, the exposure an accused would face would be as great as one and one third to four years in a New York State prison.
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