(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Sheldon Silver, the once-powerful New York State Assembly Speaker, of his conviction on corruption charges that resulted in a 6-1/2-year prison sentence.
Silver, 76, began serving his sentence last August despite being in poor health. He had appealed the portions of his 2018 conviction that were upheld in January 2020 by the Manhattan-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Two conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, said they would have taken up Silver’s appeal.
Meir Feder, a lawyer for Silver, declined to comment.
Silver, a Democrat, was accused of accepting close to $4 million in illegal payments in exchange for taking official actions in two separate schemes.
Prosecutors said Silver arranged for state grants to go to a cancer researcher who referred mesothelioma patients to his law firm, and supported rent regulation interests of two real estate developers that sent business to another law firm.
Silver represented Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and served as Assembly speaker from 1994 to 2015. Along with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Republican former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Silver was one of the “three men in a room” with effective power to shape New York legislative priorities.
Skelos was convicted on separate corruption charges in 2018.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump had considered granting clemency to Silver, sources said last week.
In his appeal, Silver said the 2nd Circuit ignored Supreme Court precedent by upholding his conviction despite the absence of agreements that he would perform “official acts” for the researcher and developers in exchange for bribes.
He also urged the Supreme Court to overrule a 1992 precedent concerning an extortion law. Gorsuch and Thomas said they wanted to reconsider that precedent.
Silver was originally convicted in 2015 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The 2nd Circuit voided that conviction in 2017, citing a 2016 Supreme Court decision narrowing the definition of corruption by public officials in a case involving Republican former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)