An appeals court recently overturned a former State Assembly speaker’s corruption conviction. Sheldon Silver was found guilty in 2015, but an appeals court overturned that conviction and his 12 year prison sentence due to a Supreme Court ruling. Attorney Barry Covert spoke to WIVB about this case and other issues. The full story is available by visiting the WIVB website.
Supreme Court decision
WIVB asked Mr. Covert what the basics of the appeals court’s decisions are. “Politicians, under federal law, can accept almost any gratuity—any gift—they want to as long as they don’t specify what the individual who is giving it to them is getting in return,” he explained. “So we can’t say A for B. We can’t say, ‘I’m going to give you a car because you’re going to make a certain decision on my case,’” Mr. Covert continued. He went on to say that “if it’s just a gift in general then the Supreme Court has said that’s not good enough, there’s going to be no conviction.”
Effect on new trial
Mr. Covert then explained how this could affect things in a new trial. “What’s always fun on a second trial—and this really is to the benefit, usually, of the defense, but you can’t say for certain—is that there was a first trial and everybody, all the witnesses, are locked in,” he said. “So now, for the prosecution, really the case can’t really change all that much.”
He went on to say that “the defense can really change their case now based on what they saw at the first trial, knowing that prosecution witnesses can’t really change their testimony anymore.”
“But the biggest and most important factor here is the Supreme Court’s ruling saying that the prosecution has to show A for B. You accepted this gift specifically in exchange for this exact act in return,” Mr. Covert explained.
Mr. Covert then spoke about the implications at other court levels for bribery and corruption charges. “In any district court, any trial court now, federally, nationwide, you have to show A for B. That somebody accepted this gift specifically for taking this illegal act,” he said.
WIVB also asked Mr. Covert about Mark Dublino, a Western New Yorker who is currently in jail for second degree murder charges. Dublino is now refusing to leave his cell, which means that a judge can now issue a drag order. Mr. Covert explained that a drag order is fairly common. “When a judge gets a report, repeatedly—they’ll give you multiple chances—that you’re refusing to leave your jail cell, then he does a drag order. That allows the deputies to physically take you out, take whatever means are necessary,” he said. Mr. Covert went on to say that a judge will most likely warn Dublino that he has the right to be at his court appearances and trial, but that he will not be required to be present.
About Barry N. Covert
Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.