Jury selection underway in trial of ex-NY Assembly speaker

Sheldon Silver
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver arrives for jury selection in his trial, Monday, Nov. 2, 2015 in New York. The consummate operator who influenced nearly every major legislative decision over more than two decades, is on trial accused of taking nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks characterized as attorney referral fees. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury selection has started in the corruption trial of a former New York Assembly speaker charged with accepting nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks.

Federal Judge Valerie Caproni is questioning several dozen prospective jurors individually to identify biases that could contaminate Sheldon Silver’s trial.

Opening statements are expected Tuesday. The 71-year-old Manhattan Democrat was arrested in January. He is free on bail.

In court Monday, Silver wore a dark suit with pinstripes. He says he will be vindicated at trial. His lawyers say federal prosecutors are unfairly going after him for practices that have long been sanctioned in Albany.

Silver stepped down from his speaker post after his arrest but retained his Assembly seat. The charges he faces carry a potential penalty of 130 years in prison.

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