NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver abused his position as one of the most powerful men in state government to give preferential professional treatment to two women with whom he had extramarital affairs, federal prosecutors said in court documents unsealed Friday.
The government said he used his position as speaker to help one woman who lobbied him on a regular basis and to get a state government job for the other.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan unsealed the papers Friday. The Democrat’s lawyers and a lawyer for one of the women, who were not identified, had opposed the release.
A day earlier, Silver declined comment as he left a court hearing over the issue. On Friday, his lawyers — Steven Molo and Joel Cohen — released a statement calling the revelations “simply unproven and salacious allegations that have no place in this case or public discussion.”
Prosecutors had hoped to use evidence of the affairs, including a taped conversation in which Silver and one of the women spoke “quietly and in whispers,” at Silver’s trial last year to counter any witnesses who might testify about his integrity, ethics, honesty and truthfulness.
“Such conduct demonstrates Silver’s willingness to use his official powers to further his personal interests while concealing his personal involvement from his staff and the public,” prosecutors wrote in October.
Silver, 72, was convicted in November in a $5 million corruption case. Prosecutors said he traded favors to enrich himself and then lied about it. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 3, when the government may again highlight the affairs.
Albany has a longstanding reputation for extramarital liaisons by legislators and other officials spending long periods far from home. They occasionally become public amid scandals.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in 2008 after federal authorities found he patronized high-end prostitutes under the nose of his police detail. Gov. David Paterson, who followed, promptly acknowledged, in response to rumors, a number of past affairs while he was a state senator.
The release of documents Friday came after lawyers for The New York Times and WNBC-TV asked the judge to unseal evidence that had been excluded from trial.
Silver’s lawyers had opposed the unsealing on grounds they could jeopardize a fair trial if Silver wins an appeal.
In February, Caproni ruled that the documents could be unsealed, saying “this otherwise personal and embarrassing conduct does, however, have public ramifications.”
Caproni said the women were not entirely innocent third parties.
“Each allegedly had an extramarital affair with a public official and then exploited her relationship with the public official for personal gain,” she wrote. “The expectation of privacy in an amorous relationship where official government business and personal benefit are intertwined is necessarily less than an amorous relationship between wholly private citizens or between a private citizen and a government official where there is no intersection with state business.”
Associated Press Writer Michael Virtanen in Albany contributed to this report.