NEW YORK >> Manhattan prosecutors say the appeals of corruption convictions by two top New York State political figures can survive fresh scrutiny in light of Monday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a former Virginia governor's bribery conviction. Defense lawyers disagree.
Jim Margolin, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, said prosecutors were still reviewing the Supreme Court ruling reversing the 2014 conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell, who accepted over $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement.
"The official actions that led to the convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos fall squarely within the definition set forth by the Supreme Court today," he said.
Silver's defense lawyers, Steven Molo and Joel Cohen, said the Supreme Court ruling "makes clear that federal government has gone too far in prosecuting state officials for conduct that is part of the everyday functioning of those in elected office."
They said the ruling "will be central to Mr. Silver's appeal."
G. Robert Gage, an attorney for Skelos, declined comment.
Silver, a Democrat, was New York Assembly speaker and Skelos, a Republican, was New York Senate majority leader when each was arrested early last year.
Both were convicted at trial. Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison in a $5 million bribery case. Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison and his son, Adam, got a 6 1/2 year sentence after both were convicted of extortion, conspiracy and bribery. Both are free on bail.
Lawyers in the Skelos case took into account the looming decision in the McDonnell case when they requested that legal briefs addressing whether the Skelos defendants should be free pending appeal. Judge Kimba Wood agreed with the schedule, which ensures the father and son will remain free through the summer.
In the Silver case, Judge Valerie E. Caproni also agreed in May to wait until after the Supreme Court ruled in McDonnell to air the issue of whether Silver remains free pending appeal.
The high court ruling was widely viewed Monday to have narrowed the scope of law barring public officials from taking gifts in exchange for "official action." McDonnell, a Republican, argued he was only helping a constituent gain access to other public officials while prosecutors said he accepted over $165,000 in gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman in exchange for promoting a dietary supplement. He was convicted in 2014.