New York Assembly Speaker to leave post amid corruption charges

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful Democrats in Empire State politics over the past two decades, will leave his post next week as he fights federal corruption charges.

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle told reporters Tuesday that the Speaker's chair would be vacant Monday.

"He said to me he will not impede the transition," said Morelle, surrounded by most of the other 105 Assembly Democrats who had met behind closed doors for the previous two days to discuss their response to the charges against their longtime leader.

Speaking later Tuesday, Silver said he would not resign his Assembly seat representing Lower Manhattan, to which he was first elected in 1976.

"I will be a member of this house. I was elected by my constituents. I do not intend to resign my seat in this house," he said. In New York state, lawmakers do not have to resign due to criminal charges, but are obligated to step down if convicted of a felony.

The 70-year-old was taken into custody last Thursday on federal charges he took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks, but he insists he is innocent. Silver faces five counts, including conspiracy and bribery, and is accused of using his position to obtain millions of dollars in kickbacks masked as legitimate income from two law firms.

Members of the Assembly said Silver's criminal charges had become a distraction and a problem for entire chamber.

Silver had one vocal ally remaining. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, has called Silver "a man of integrity" and said Tuesday that he shouldn't resign. He added that people have to respect the Assembly's decision, but "it's crucially important" that there is leadership that's fair to the city, which he claimed often doesn't get its fair share from the state government.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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