United States v. Silver, No. 16-1615 (2d Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The Second Circuit vacated and remanded defendant's conviction for all counts related to the abuse of his public position by engaging in two quid pro quo schemes in which he performed official acts in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. Defendant, the former Speaker of the New York State Assembly, then laundered the proceeds of his schemes into private investment vehicles. Although the court rejected defendant's sufficiency challenges, the court held that the district court's instructions on honest services fraud and extortion did not comport with McDonnell v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2355 (2016), and were therefore in error. McDonnell clarified the definition of an "official act" in honest services fraud and extortion charges. The court further held that this error was not harmless because it was not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have reached the same conclusion if properly instructed, as was required by law for the verdict to stand.