Que Sera` Sera`

In Columns by Hal Peterson0 Comments

Both former State Senator Dean Skelos and former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver are hoping to overcome their 2015 convictions based on the 2016 Supreme Court ruling reversing the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Not so for New York State Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. currently serving 14 more years’ in a federal prison. On July 7th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit turned down the appeal saying the evidence against him was so overwhelming that any error in jury instruction didn’t affect the verdict.

The ruling however, according to Jennifer Rodgers, executive director of the Columbia Law School’s Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity may not be rock solid. These cases all have different legal standings.

Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged in a 43 page 14 count indictment of receiving gifts and loans totaling $165,000, luxury family vacations, $20,000 in designer clothes, a Rolex watch and lord knows what else from a wealthy Richmond area business man who sought special treatment from state government. In November of 2016 he joined the faculty of Regent University’s Pat Robertson School of Government. Referencing the lyrics of a song by Doris Day – Que Sera` Sera` – What will be, will be….our future is not to see.

PS: One week after this column was written, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeal agreed to overturn Sheldon Silver’s 2015 conviction using as a precedent a Supreme Court decision that reversed the above mentioned McDonnell charges. Why? “The federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 201, makes it a crime for a public official to “receive or accept anything of value” in exchange for being “influenced in the performance of any official act.” An “official act” is a decision or action on a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy”; that question or matter must involve a formal exercise of governmental power, and must also be something specific and focused that is “pending” or “may by law be brought” before a public official. To qualify as an “official act,” the public official must make a decision to take an action on that question or matter, or agree to do so. Setting up a meeting, talking to talking to another official, or organizing an event – without more – does not fit the definition of “official act.”

My assessment: If what Sheldon Silver did wasn’t illegal, it’s hard to imagine what is.

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