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Judge rejects ex-NY Assembly speaker’s bid to toss charges

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver lost a bid Friday to toss out corruption charges against him.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan dismissed the Democrat’s efforts to portray behavior that earned him millions of dollars over the last decade as innocent conduct that, at most, stretched the limits of ethics rules.

“None of Silver’s arguments is persuasive,” the judge wrote. “Evidence that Silver went to lengths to conceal his allegedly ill-gotten gains is evidence both of Silver’s knowledge that the money that he received constituted ‘criminally derived property’ … and evidence of Silver’s consciousness of guilt regarding his allegedly fraudulent and extortionate activities.”

Silver is free on bail after his January arrest on charges that he collected $4 million in kickbacks by abusing his powerful legislative position. The 71-year-old Silver faces a Nov. 2 trial, where he has vowed to be vindicated.

His lawyers said in a statement Friday that they were studying Caproni’s decision.

“We look forward to a trial of this case in which Mr. Silver will clear his name,” they said.

Caproni noted that prosecutors plan to prove that Silver used his power and influence to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

“The fact that the payments Silver allegedly received as ‘bribes’ or ‘kickbacks’ were funneled through entities in which he had an undisclosed interest does not transform the bribery or kickback schemes into ‘undisclosed conflict-of-interest’ schemes,” she wrote.

In court papers, defense attorneys had argued that the indictment made allegations that weren’t crimes, but instead constituted “longstanding features of New York state government that the U.S. attorney finds distasteful.”

Silver, a Manhattan resident, resigned from his Senate leadership post after his arrest but retained his Assembly seat.

First elected in 1976, he represents a district on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he was born and raised.

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