A lawyer for disgraced former state Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. on Wednesday told a federal appeals panel that Boyland should go free because of last year’s Supreme Court decision narrowing the reach of federal anti-corruption laws in a case that involved former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Boyland is the latest on a list of convicted pols — including ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and one-time Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos — to try to escape punishment by citing the ruling that a bribery scheme must include a formal exercise of government power, not just informal help like setting up a meeting.
Lawyer James Branden told the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that when Boyland was convicted in 2014 of overlapping schemes to take cash from undercover agents to help them with a carnival permit and a real estate project, the judge gave jurors too broad a definition of the type of promised acts that the Supreme Court says would be a crime.
“Ultimately, we don’t know whether the jury unanimously agreed on things that were illegal,” he told the three-judge panel.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors conceded that the jury instructions were out of step with the law later established by the Supreme Court, but prosecutor Lan Nguyen told the judges that the evidence against Boyland was so overwhelming that any rational jury would convict.
In addition to the bribery schemes, in which Boyland sought more than $250,000, he was also convicted of collecting $71,000 in phony expenses and siphoning $84,000 in state funds from a nonprofit to his campaign.
He is currently serving a 14-year sentence at a low-security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania. The Second Circuit could affirm the convictions, or reverse in part and order a resentencing. The judges gave no indication of when they may rule.