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By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, March 20 (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday rejected former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s bid to dismiss his indictment on corruption charges, clearing the way for a scheduled April 16 retrial after his earlier conviction had been thrown out.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan said Silver’s arguments for dismissing or narrowing the indictment “run counter to the law,” and there was no basis to limit the maximum sum he might forfeit.
Michael Feldberg, a lawyer for Silver, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment.
Last July, the federal appeals court in Manhattan overturned Silver’s November 2015 conviction and 12-year prison sentence, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision narrowing what kind of conduct could support corruption prosecutions.
But it also said prosecutors had sufficient evidence to prove the honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering counts on which Silver had been convicted.
Silver, 74, has been free on bail.
The Democrat had represented Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and was Assembly speaker from 1994 to 2015.
Along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, he was one of the “three men in a room” with effective power to dictate New York legislative priorities.
Prosecutors accused Silver of collecting roughly $4 million of illegal fees, in return for actions that benefited a prominent cancer researcher, two real estate developers, a friend’s law firm, and a law firm Silver was affiliated with.
Silver’s original conviction was overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court, in voiding the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, said in June 2016 that routine political activities such as arranging meetings or reaching out to public officials were not as “official acts.”
Caproni rejected Silver’s contentions that the indictment failed to allege illegal “quid pro quo” arrangements, and that the McDonnell decision overruled an underlying bribery theory.
She also said that whether specific activity constitutes an “official act” is a question for jurors.
Last September, the federal appeals court overturned the corruption convictions of Skelos, a Republican, and his son Adam, also citing the McDonnell decision. The Skeloses are trying to have their indictments dismissed.
And in January, the U.S. Department of Justice decided against retrying New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez for corruption, following a mistrial.
The case is U.S. v. Silver, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00093.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Tom Brown and Richard Chang