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Sheldon Silver gets new lawyer, no delay in corruption retrial

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, left, leaves a

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, left, leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan after a pre-trial hearing on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

Former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver got a new lawyer on Thursday, but not a delay in his scheduled April 16 retrial on corruption charges in Manhattan federal court.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni approved the withdrawal of attorneys Steve Molo and Joel Cohen, who defended Silver in his 2015 trial and then won an appeal of his conviction, and entry into the case of a new defense lawyer, Michael Feldberg.

Although court officers and employees shielded Silver from questions inside the courthouse and reserved a special elevator for him, the one-time Albany power broker told reporters outside he was optimistic.

“I believe justice will prevail,” said Silver, 73, of Manhattan.

The ex-speaker also said he was feeling “wonderful” after facing health problems at the time of his first trial and — in the wake of disclosures about mistresses in Albany following the earlier trial — said things with his wife were “fine.”

Silver was convicted of using his power in the legislature to do favors for a cancer researcher and a real estate company in return for referrals and legal fees to two law firms he was affiliated with.

The conviction was reversed for faulty jury instructions after the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of an “official act” that must be performed as part of a criminal quid pro quo arrangement.

Silver and Feldberg, who is with the Manhattan firm Allen & Overy, both declined to comment on the reason for the lawyer switch but Cohen and Molo, in a statement, suggested it might relate to the fee for a retrial.

“The defense of complex white collar prosecutions is incredibly expensive,” they said. “Mr. Silver’s assets have been frozen for three years. With the appeal won, we’re glad that Allen & Overy, an excellent firm, can step in now.”

While Caproni agreed to the new lawyer, the judge rejected a plea from Feldberg for a delay of the trial, calling a bid to bar a retrial that was rejected by the Supreme Court last week a “Hail Mary” and saying Silver had plenty of time to plan for his new trial.

“If he wanted to change counsel, he should have done so,” she said.

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