A key U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday could aid former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos as they appeal their federal corruption convictions.
The court unanimously ruled Monday morning in favor of former Virginia Gov. Bob MdDonnell, vacating his 2015 corruption conviction and sending his case back to a lower court. McDonnell had been convicted of extortion and fraud for accepting more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from a Virginia business executive.
The case centered on the meaning of "official act," with the Supreme Court ruling it's not enough to convict a government official if they only set up a meeting or organize an event for a gift giver and nothing more.
McDonnell's case was being watched closely by attorneys for Silver and Skelos, who were separately convicted of various bribery and fraud charges last year and automatically ejected from office. The case could have implications for both former New York politicians, whose bail-pending-appeal hearings were postponed until after the McDonnell decision came down.
"To qualify as an 'official act,' the public official must make a decision or take an action on that question or matter, or agree to do so," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court's unanimous opinion. "Setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event-without more-does not fit that definition of 'official act.'"
While U.S. attorney Preet Bharara is confident the Silver and Skelos convictions will hold up under this ruling, I'm not so sure.
Susan Lerner, executive director of good-government group Common Cause/NY is not enthusiastic about the decision either.
She said the Court "lives in a fantasy land that defies the common sense understanding of two New York juries."
"By confirming that a pay-to-play culture is an inherent part of day-to-day politics, the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for special interest groups to influence politicians, at the expense of American democracy," Lerner said in a statement that I am taking from the WJRZ piece.
Politico chimed in also: