Opening Statements To Begin In Ex-NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's Retrial

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Holding a ceremonial position on the New York-based asbestos firm Weitz & Luxenberg, Silver steered mesothelioma patients to the firm referred to him by Columbia University physician Robert Taub.

The blunt tactic appears to be a bet that a narrower legal definition of bribery set forth by the US Supreme Court could set his client free. To convince the jury Silver had the guilty state of mind necessary for a criminal conviction, Williams told jurors Silver never publicized his grants to a cancer clinic even though many of his constituents in downtown NY were anxious about coming down with cancer from inhaling asbestos-laced dust from the collapse of the World Trade Towers.

Silver's lawyer, Michael Feldberg, told jurors that prosecutors could not prove that Silver agreed to engage in "official acts" in exchange for payment, echoing the language of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to Silver's first conviction being overturned.

The attorneys were different on both sides, while the judge, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of NY, still presides from the bench. "There is no question that Silver took a number of official acts - most obviously passing legislation and approving state grants and tax-exempt financing - as part of a quid pro quo" in the charged schemes, the judge wrote.

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is surrounded by media as he leaves the court in New York on May 3, 2016, after he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges. Feldberg and the rest of Silver's new defense team are hoping they can convince jurors that Silver didn't perform "official acts", which include making legislative decisions or holding hearings, in exchange for the cash.

Taub would then refer asbestos claims to Silver's law firm.

The trial before U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni is expected to last four to six weeks.

Silver, a Democrat, represented Manhattan's Lower East Side, and was Assembly speaker from 1994 to 2015.

Judge Caproni is hearing Silver's retrial in a fourth-floor courtroom in downtown NY.

"For two decades, this man Sheldon Silver was one of the most powerful politicians in all of New York", Assistant U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said. He described the defendant as somebody who was "blinded by greed".

"Dr. Taub was Silver's golden goose", the prosecutor, Mr. Williams, said. He played the same role in the 2015 trial.

Numerous government's previous witnesses are expected to return to the stand, including Taub, who was set to begin testimony Monday. "Silver to be an advocate for mesothelioma cases and help raise funds for research", Taub said. Bob McDonnell affected public corruption prosecutions across the country and resulted in the reversal of the convictions of Silver and former New York Senate leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, at separate trials.

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