The Second Circuit vacated former New York Speaker of the House Sheldon Silver’s convictions for honest services fraud, Hobbs Act extortion, and money laundering based on an erroneous jury instruction. You can access the opinion here. At trial, the District Court instructed the jury that an “official act” within the meaning of the charges was “any action taken or to be taken under color of official authority.” After Silver’s conviction, the Supreme Court decided McDonnell v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016). In McDonnell, the Supreme Court defined “official act” within the meaning of honest services fraud and extortion charges as “a decision or action on a ‘question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy” involving “a formal exercise of governmental power.” In light of the McDonnell decision, the Second Circuit vacated Silver’s conviction, finding that the error in instructing the jury was not harmless, even though the Circuit rejected Silver’s sufficiency of the evidence challenge.
The Circuit also denied leave to file a second or successive 2255 petition on the ground that Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016) did not announce a new rule of constitutional law. You can access the per curiam decision in Washington v. United States here.
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