Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Monday, Nov....

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is playing for time in hopes a key witness will die or become forgetful, federal prosecutors suggested Friday in a letter urging the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let his expected retrial on corruption charges go forward right away.

The 2nd Circuit reversed Silver’s 2015 conviction this month due to erroneous jury instructions. He wants a delay while he asks the Supreme Court to end the case for lack of evidence, instead of having a retrial. Prosecutors cited the age of Dr. Robert Taub, a government witness.

“Silver’s apparent desire for further delay surely is motivated by his recognition that, as time passes, necessary witnesses and other evidence may be lost,” prosecutors said. “Indeed, one of the central witnesses in Silver’s trial is over 80 years old.”

At trial, Taub, a mesothelioma researcher, testified about an arrangement in which he referred cancer patients to Silver’s law firm, and Silver steered $500,000 in legislative grants to him. It was one of two schemes in which he was convicted of doing favors in return for referrals.

The 2nd Circuit said the judge didn’t instruct the jury properly on the requirement that Silver perform an “official act,” but said there was sufficient evidence to convict him at a retrial. Silver wants time to try to convince the Supreme Court to take the case.

Prosecutors said his chances are so slim that there’s no reason to stop the clock on preparing for a retrial. “Silver’s motion appears to be little more than a delay tactic,” they said.

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