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ALBANY - The vast majority of Assembly Democrats stood solidly behind Speaker Sheldon Silver hours after he was arrested on corruption charges.
Silver joins five other veteran legislative leaders and recently retired legislators who were already under federal investigation.
“We have every confidence the speaker is going to fulfill his role with distinction and the members of this conference were overwhelming in making that clear,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester).
“I don’t think it’s a distraction,” he said.
The exception was freshman Assemb. Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn).
“I think he should step down and this is a distraction,” Barron said. “And if any part of these charges are true, it is a shame and it is a disgrace ... we need a new leader.”
Assemb. Felix Ortiz (D-Bronx) said after the private session that the conference seeks to operate without change.
“It’s business as usual,” he said in an interview. “Business will continue.”
Silver (D-Manhattan) was arrested Thursday on charges that he used his powerful political post to seek and receive millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes for attracting wealthy clients to private law firms without doing any work.
Lawmakers may keep their seat unless they are convicted of a crime.
He joins colleagues who were already under federal charges including Senate Majority Leader Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) who is accused of lying to federal agents probing a job secured for Libous’ son; former Sen. George Maziarz (R-Niagara) who didn’t seek another term last year amid a federal investigation; and former Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), each former Democratic majority leaders, who also have been under federal investigation. In addition, Assemb. William Scarborough (D-Queens) is under federal indictment accusing him of misusing campaign contributions.
“There’s a whole bunch of members who have been here a long time who are in the crosshairs of the U.S. attorney’s office,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Depending on how that plays it out, it could be a political tsunami.”