NEW YORK (Reuters) - The powerful longtime speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, is expected to be arrested on federal corruption charges on Thursday, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter.
An arrest of Silver, 70, a Democrat from Manhattan’s Lower East Side who has served as speaker for 20 years, would likely spark political upheaval in Albany, the state capital, less than two weeks after he opened the new legislative session.
The Times said details of the charges Silver faces were unclear on Wednesday night but cited one person familiar with the matter as saying the case stemmed from payments he received from a small law firm specializing in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes.
The Times cited another unnamed source as saying the payments in question were substantial and made over several years, and reported that Silver failed to list them on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state as required.
Several months ago federal prosecutors subpoenaed documents from a personal injury firm that also made payments to Silver that he did not disclose, the Times said, citing a person with knowledge of that matter.
According to the newspaper, its sources spoke about the Sheldon case on condition of anonymity because the charges had not been made public.
The newspaper said Silver’s lawyer, Joel Cohen, declined to comment on Wednesday night. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the Times’ report or to reach Silver’s legal representatives.
Selected as Assembly speaker in 1994, Silver ranks as the top Democrat in the state Legislature and wields enormous political clout as one of Albany’s three principal dealmakers - along with the governor and Senate majority leader - on fiscal matters and major legislation.
He also has long been criticized for his continued employment in one of the state’s larger private law practices, which some have said poses a conflict with legislation that would be interest to his firm, such as medical malpractice or tort reform.
The reported charges pending against Silver would mark the latest case to involve allegations of wrongdoing by state lawmakers in Albany, where at least 30 politicians have faced legal or ethics problems since 2000.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat sworn into his second term earlier this month, created an independent anti-corruption commission in 2013 but shut it down this year, prompting an investigation by federal prosecutors in New York who are looking into the panel’s unfinished cases.
Additional reporting by Noeleen Walder in New York; writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles