New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been one of the most powerful men in Albany for more than two decades, was arrested Thursday.
FBI spokesman Peter Donald confirmed the 70-year-old Silver was taken into custody around 8 a.m. at FBI headquarters in New York City, but he declined to discuss the charges. Silver was expected to make a court appearance later Thursday, and the U.S. attorney’s office was expected to hold a news conference to discuss the case.
Silver’s spokesman Michael Whyland declined to comment before the arrest.
The NY Daily News reports, that Silver was being held Thursday at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan, law enforcement sources said. He was afforded the right of self-surrender, as opposed to a public “perp” walk, owing to his status as a veteran state lawmaker.
The arrest sent shock waves through New York’s Capitol as a new legislative session has begun, and it came just a day after Silver shared the stage with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his State of the State address.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara took over the files of New York’s Moreland anti-corruption commission after Cuomo closed it in April. He said in October that investigations into Albany’s pay-to-play politics are continuing.
The commission and Bharara were looking into lawmakers’ earnings outside their state salaries. Silver’s outside income has long been a subject of discussion and controversy. Last year, he reported making up to $750,000 for legal work, mostly with the trial firm of Weitz & Luxenberg.
As speaker of the Democrat-controlled Assembly, Silver is one of the most influential people in New York state government. Along with the Senate majority leader and the governor, he plays a major role in creating state budgets, laws and policies in a system long-criticized in Albany as “three men in a room.”
Silver has gone toe-to-toe with five New York governors – from the late Mario Cuomo to his son Andrew Cuomo – since early 1994, when he was selected Assembly speaker to replace the ailing Saul Welprin.
Silver was first elected to the Assembly in 1976, representing a district on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he was born and still lives with his wife, Rosa.
A graduate of Brooklyn Law School and a practicing attorney, Silver has championed liberal causes in the Legislature, where he has used his position as a powerbroker to support teachers, trial lawyers and civil service unions.
But he has also seen more than his share of corruption and scandal in his chamber. Several Assembly members have been hit in recent years with criminal charges ranging from taking bribes to using campaign funds for personal expenses.