SilverFrom the Morning Memo:

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has vowed to appeal his conviction this week on all seven of the federal corruption charges lodged against him by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

According to Albany Law School Prof. Vin Bonventre, that’s a smart strategy – especially if Silver’s cause eventually reaches the nation’s highest court, where a number of justices have already signaled their dislike for the theft of honest services law – a key plank in the prosecution’s case against the ex-Manhattan lawmaker.

“This is a big case; I mean the Supremes don’t hear too many cases, but this is one they might really want to take,” Bonventre said.

“You’re talking about one of the most powerful politicians – not only in New York State, but in the country, for crying out loud,” the professor continued. “He gets convicted under this honest services law, which many of them think is awful.”

“Three of them the last time wanted the whole thing thrown out. So there’s going to be, I suspect, three votes to hear the case. They just need one more vote to hear the case.”

Bonventre noted that the last time the honest services law was altered by the Supreme Court, it benefitted former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who went through two federal corruption trials and remains a free man.

Fighting the charges against him cost Bruno millions of dollars – a lot of which came from contributors to a legal defense fund and his existing political campaign account.

After Bruno was acquitted, the state agreed to cover much – but not all of – his legal expenses, but the case took years to play out and was very expensive for the former Republican legislative leader in the short term.

Silver has already spent at least $1.5 million from his own campaign account to cover his legal fees, and he is hardly alone in this practice, which some reform-minded lawmakers have sought (so far with no success) to ban.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Skilling case narrowed the honest services law significantly, ruling that it could only be constitutionally applied to cases involving bribery and kickbacks.

That would seem to apply in Silver’s case, though the ex-lawmaker was not solely convicted on honest services changes. But in Bonventre’s eyes, the prosecution’s attorneys failed to make a strong legal argument – even though the jury agreed with them in the end.

“It’s all wrapped up,” Bonventre said of the charges against Silver and the honest services law.

“Did he use his position to make money? – which by the way is not a crime. The crime is whether there was a bribe. I, for one, don’t think they proved that beyond a reasonable doubt at all. If you asked me common sense, yeah, I think he’s guilty. But do I think they proved it beyond a reasonable doubt? Not at all.”