New York Assembly speaker takes leave of absence from law firm after corruption charges

Associated Press

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is taking a leave of absence from his law firm as he fights federal corruption charges, the firm said Wednesday.

Weitz & Luxenberg president Perry Weitz said the firm was "shocked" to learn about the accusations against Silver.

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"We have asked Mr. Silver to take a leave of absence until these allegations are resolved," he wrote in a statement emailed to reporters.

Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, faces charges that he took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks in payments from law firms over a decade. Some of the charges relate to allegations that Silver collected money for securing state grants for a doctor who then referred cases to the firm.

Weitz said the firm had no knowledge of the alleged arrangement. Silver, who in a state financial disclosure reported making between $650,000 and $750,000 from his outside legal work in 2013, has said he expects to be exonerated.

The firm released a statement from Silver confirming the leave.

"I am grateful for my time with the firm and do not want the pending and unwarranted allegations against me to be a distraction, especially since there was no wrongdoing by the firm," Silver said.

The Assembly's Democratic majority announced Tuesday that Silver, 70, had agreed to relinquish his position as speaker, which he has held for 21 years.

Meanwhile, patient care at the Mesothelioma Center, which received grants from Silver, is being absorbed by Columbia University Medical Center's oncology division, and Dr. Robert Taub is no longer the mesothelioma center's director, a hospital spokesman said this week.

Federal authorities alleged that a doctor at the center recommended patients with asbestos-related cancer go to Weitz & Luxenberg and that Silver received referral fees but did no work. The doctor is a cooperating witness in the investigation.

A telephone call to Taub was not returned Wednesday.