As we await more details in the case of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – according to reports, he is now in FBI custody – it might be instructive to take a look back at the history of those who have found themselves in similar situations.

The last speaker who was indicted – and subsequently found guilty – of wrongdoing was former Assemblyman Mel Miller, a Brooklyn Democrat.

Miller’s conviction in December 1991 on federal fraud charges forced his immediate loss of both his Assembly seat and his leadership post. Miller, who was once one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers, was eventually cleared by a federal appeals court in 1993, but by then, his career in elected office was long over, though he stayed involved in politics by becoming a lobbyist.

Miller and top aide, Jay Adolf, were orginally charged in 1990 with committing fraud in conntection with the buying and selling of cooperative apartments between 1984 and 1986 when they were partners in the law firm of Adolf & Miller.

While representing clients who were buying apartments, according to the feds, Miller and Adolf secretly bought some of the apartments for themselves and then sold the units at a profit of $300,000 while also collecting $238,000 in legal fees.

Both men insisted they had done noting wrong, and Miller’s attorney said his client was among “a hunted class of well-known politicians.” (Sound familiar?) At the time, Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein, a Manhattan Democrat, was awaiting trial on state charges that he misused public money by placing “no show” workers on his payroll.

(UPDATE):A veteran of NY politics notes I neglected to point out that the most significant charges against Ohrenstein, accusing him of assigning legislative workers to full-time duty on Senate campaigns in 1986, were thrown out in 1990 by the Court of Appeals. And the remaining charges, which involved the award of no-show jobs to political allies, were dropped by then Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau. The former senator was subsequently partially reimbursed by the state (a la former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno) for his legal bills to the tune of $1.3 million.

Miller, who was first elected in 1970 by voters in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, was the third of the last four Assembly speakers to be indicted but the first to be convicted. He was also the 10th state lawmaker to be indicted since 1987. (The list is considerably longer now, I believe up to 33 and counting, with the trial of former Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Queens Democrat, underway and former Senate Majority Leader John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, awaiting his day in court).

In January 1993, an appeals court threw out the convictions of both Miller and Adolf, ruling that a financial group the two represented had no contractual rights to the profits in question, so the investors could not have been defrauded.

In between his indictment and his conviction, Miller held on to the speaker’s office. And Silver could indeed try to do the same, but there will no doubt be calls for him to relinquish that post if and when he is arrested and charged.

Those calls will no doubt start with the Republicans, who have used Silver as a foil in recent years – especially since his role in the secret settlement of sexual harassment charges lodged against former Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Vito Lopez. (That case is still playing out in court, and Silver has been named in a lawsuit brought by two former Looez aides who claim they were harassed by their ex-boss).

But Silver is elected by his fellow Democratic Assembly members, and only they can decide if they want to keep him as their leader. As I mentioned earlier today, there is no clear successor to Silver, though several members have been mentioned in the past. (I forgot to add Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, a Queens Democrat, to that list, though his health – he suffered a heart attack in 2002 – could be a concern to some of his colleagues; being the speaker is a high stress job).

Silver was easily re-elected to another two-year term as speaker earlier this month, even as reports of the US attorney’s investigation into his outside income hung over his head. He had just a few detractors – freshman Assemblyman Charles Barron, a freshman from Brooklyn who is basically a professional detractor, and Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, a WNY Democrat who been at odds with Silver pretty much since before he arrived in Albany.

Another big question is what Gov. Andrew Cuomo will do here. He has studiously avoided getting involved in Assembly Democratic politics, though there has always beens speculation that he would prefer to see someone other than Silver in the speaker’s office. The governor doesn’t have a vote in the speaker election, but he does have a BIG bully pulpit.

Miller’s conviction caused a headache for Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. It’s unlikely the current governor Cuomo would sit by and let chaos rule in the Assembly chamber, potentially derailing – at least temporarily – his reform agenda in Albany. After all, as my friend and colleague at Capital NY Jimmy Vielkind likes to say, chaos is decidedly not Cuomonian.