Manhattan U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni has decided to release Friday morning sealed evidence about former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that his lawyers and the lawyer for an unidentified woman have struggled to keep secret.
Caproni said the evidence, which she kept out of Silver’s corruption trial last year, was “not one of his better moments” but was relevant to his upcoming May 3 sentencing, and the public had a right to know all the factors bearing on the sentence she imposes.
“There’s a right to a public trial,” she said. “ . . . However it gets balanced, the public has the right to know what all is on the plate.”
The judge, Silver lawyer Steve Molo and Abbe David Lowell, the attorney for the so-called “Sealed Party A” did not disclose the substance of the matter during arguments, but dropped several clues.
Caproni agreed that it does not involve quid-pro-quo corruption identical to the alleged trading of legislative favors for legal referral fees that led to Silver’s conviction last year, but said it had “something to do with his use of public office for personal reasons.”
The judge also told Lowell that she believed his client qualified legally as a “public figure,” and said, “It is not someone who has no public profile at all.”
Lowell said that his client was not a public figure at the time of the event and that the judge had agreed to redact the names of “Jane Does” who were involved, but he feared there would be enough information to identify his client without her name.
He said, “It is not protecting the identity if there is identifying information.” But Caproni said the information Lowell fears will identify his client was necessary to “understanding the public issues.”
Caproni delayed the release until Friday morning to give Lowell and Molo an opportunity to seek an emergency stay of her ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Silver was convicted in December of providing legislative favors to an asbestos doctor and two real estate firms in return for their help generating legal fees for him, and of money laundering.
Based on sealed filings and arguments, Caproni refused before the trial to let the prosecution put in evidence on the matter she now plans to make public, but she reconsidered after Silver’s conviction and at the urging of prosecutors and media lawyers decided to release the materials.
Silver and “Sealed Party A” appealed last month, and a 2nd Circuit panel ruled that Caproni could reveal the evidence if it is relevant to sentencing.