Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had extramarital relationships with two women, one who lobbied him for clients with state business and the other whom he helped get a state job, prosecutors alleged in documents released Friday in federal court.
The lobbyist lobbied Silver “on a regular basis,” the government claimed in a motion filed before Silver’s trial last year, and the other woman was recommended for a job “over which he exercised a particularly high level of control.”
The names of the two women were redacted, but prosecutors said they had a recording of a conversation between Silver and the female lobbyist in which they discussed “both State and private business” and spoke “quietly and in whispers” about how to hide their relationship from reporters.
“I don’t think he caught us,” Silver said in response to his alleged lover’s concern about inquiries being made by one reporter. Prosecutors said the lobbyist was widely viewed as someone with “special access” to Silver and got clients “in part because of her access.”
Silver, prosecutors said, communicated with the second woman on a secret cellphone that was not in his name and was activated “only days after” the woman activated a cellphone of her own that she used to communicate with Silver.
The government said Silver recommended her to two different state officials for the job without disclosing the relationship, contacting an agency where his candidates for top posts were usually elected to serve “due to the size and composition of the Assembly versus the Senate.”
Silver, 72, was tried and convicted last year on charges that he did legislative favors for an asbestos researcher and two real estate companies in return for their funneling nearly $4 million in legal referral fees to him.
The new materials were released Friday by U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, who refused to allow them into evidence in Silver’s trial and kept them sealed, but concluded that they were relevant to his scheduled May 3 sentencing and should be disclosed.
The government and media lawyers fought for their release, but it was opposed by Silver’s legal team and by Abbe David Lowell, the lawyer for the female lobbyist, who tried to keep the fact that she was a lobbyist secret as well as her name.
In a statement following the release, Joel Cohen, a lawyer for Silver, said in a statement, “These are simply unproven and salacious allegations that have no place in this case or public discussion.” Silver’s wife of more than 40 years, Rosa, is a former special-needs teacher.
Lowell, a lawyer at the law firm Chadbourne & Parke, initially contended, according to unsealed court filings, that his own name should be kept secret because it would make the identity of the lobbyist obvious. He did not return a call for comment.
The other woman, who got a job, was represented by Staten Island lawyer Manuel Ortega, according to unsealed filings. Ortega, in a statement Friday afternoon, did not identify his client, but said the government got it wrong and “smeared” his client with a “baseless allegation” of an affair.
“The government’s allegations were built solely on speculation and conjecture,” Ortega wrote. “There is absolutely no truth to the allegations of an affair. A friendship has been turned into a sexual relationship with no evidence whatsoever.
“The government has no actual evidence that there was any criminal conduct in the manner in which my client secured a position,” Ortega added. “Recommendations to a position happen in almost any industry in this country.”
Caproni, in her unsealed ruling ordering release of the materials, took issue with the claim that the two women were “innocent” parties whose privacy should be protected at all costs.
“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.”
In a heavily blacked-out transcript of an oral argument in February on the unsealing, Caproni also hinted during a redacted exchange with Lowell that the two might not be the only ones.
“I presume that there are a number of women,” the judge said in the only line on page 37 that was not redacted.