NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver can remain free a few more months while he appeals his bribery conviction, an appeals court decided Wednesday, two days before he was to report to prison .
Judge Jose A. Cabranes of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced the good news for the 74-year-old Democrat after hearing oral arguments along with two other judges. Silver was not in court.
Silver's lawyers contended there was a high enough likelihood their client's conviction and seven-year sentence will be tossed out on appeal that he should not have to report to prison Friday.
Usually, defendants are only permitted to remain free on appeal when there is a significant question about the law that raises the likelihood that a conviction might be overturned.
Cabranes, though, said the decision to let Silver remain free was "not intended and does not intimate any view of the gravity of the offenses charged or the merits of this appeal."
He said the appeal will be handled by the court in expedited fashion, with all written arguments to be submitted by Dec. 3 and for oral arguments to occur soon afterward. Otherwise, the process would have been likely to take many more months.
Silver was convicted on charges that he accepted nearly $4 million in fees in exchange for taking actions as a legislator that benefited a cancer researcher and real estate developers.
Silver's lawyers insist that the money their client received was not the result of bribes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal told the 2nd Circuit panel that the proof was overwhelming that a $100,000 check accepted by Silver was followed by many more as the legislator enabled state funding to be steered toward pet projects.
"Over and over again, there's a this-for-that," he said.