Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had extramarital affairs with two women, one who lobbied him for clients with state business and another who he helped get a state job, prosecutors alleged in bombshell documents released Friday in federal court in Manhattan.
The names of the two women were redacted from the documents, but the government alleged the lobbyist lobbied Silver “on a regular basis” and said that the other woman was recommended for a job “over which he exercised a particularly high level of control.”
The disclosures, cleared by U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni over stiff resistance from lawyers for Silver and the two women, could wreck any bid to salvage the once-powerful Lower East Side Democrat’s public image and hurt his chance for leniency at his scheduled May 3 sentencing.
Caproni said the allegations needed to be released because they weren’t simple affairs, but echoed the abuse of power and use of office for personal gain involved in Silver’s conviction in December of trading legislative favors for legal referral fees.
“These were not wholly private relationships unrelated to the defendant’s role as a publicly-elected official,” the judge said in an opinion.
But Joel Cohen and Steve Molo, Silver’s lawyers, denounced the release. “These are simply unproven and salacious allegations that have no place in this case or public discussion,” they said in a statement.
Prosecutors, who were precluded from using the evidence at Silver’s trial, said they had a recording of Silver and the female lobbyist discussing “both State and private business” and speaking “quietly and in whispers” about how to hide their affair from reporters.
“I don’t think he caught us,” Silver said in response to his alleged lover’s concerns about inquiries by one reporter, but the government said he also told her it was “not safe” for them to be seen together and he didn’t see inquiries “dissipating for a long time.”
The recording itself was not released, but in a transcript prosecutors told the judge the pair used terms like “honey, sweetheart, darling” for each other. The lobbyist was widely viewed in Albany as having “special access” and got clients due to her access, prosecutors said.
Silver communicated with the second woman on a secret cellphone that was not in his name, was billed to a different address, and was activated “only days after” the woman activated a cellphone of her own that she used to speak with Silver, the filings said.
Prosecutors also said the then-speaker recommended her to two different state officials for a job without disclosing their relationship, contacting an agency where his candidates for top posts were usually elected to serve due to the size of the Assembly versus the Senate — a description that seemed to fit the state’s Board of Regents.
Silver, 72, has been married for more than 40 years. He was tried and convicted last year of helping an asbestos researcher and two real estate companies in return for their funneling nearly $4 million in legal referral fees to him.
In addition to Silver’s lawyers, release of the materials was opposed by Abbe David Lowell, a lawyer for the female lobbyist. He argued in unsealed transcripts that release of his own name would make his client’s identity obvious and tried to convince Caproni to not reveal that she was a lobbyist.
Lowell also suggested in court arguments that the lobbyist was not a “public figure” when the affair occurred. He issued no statement after the release Friday and did not respond to questions about the identity of his client.
The attorney for the other woman was identified in court papers as Staten Island attorney Manuel Ortega, who also did not respond to questions about the identity of his client but issued a statement that said prosecutors “smeared” his client with a “baseless allegation” of an affair.
“The government’s allegations were built solely on speculation and conjecture,” Ortega wrote. “There is absolutely no truth to the allegations of an affair. A friendship has been turned into a sexual relationship with no evidence whatsoever.”
Caproni, in her unsealed ruling ordering release of the materials, took issue with the claim that the two women were “innocent” parties whose privacy in their alleged “amorous relationships” should be protected at all costs.
“Each allegedly had an extramarital affair with a public official and then exploited her relationship with the public official for personal gain,” she wrote.
In a heavily redacted transcript of an oral argument in February on the unsealing, Caproni also made a cryptic remark, the only one not blacked-out on an entire page of dialogue.
“I presume,” the judge said, “that there are a number of women.”