(JTA) — A prominent New York oncologist testified that he referred patients afflicted with a cancer caused by asbestos to a law firm affiliated with former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Dr. Robert Taub, who like Silver is an Orthodox Jew, said during Silver’s corruption trial in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday that he hoped that by referring the patients, his clinic at Columbia University would get research funding for the mesothelioma disease.
Taub, who testified under a grant of immunity, acknowledged under cross-examination that he and Silver did not have “an explicit agreement to exchange patients for grants.”
Silver, 71, who is on trial on bribery, extortion and money-laundering charges, is accused of giving two $250,000 state research grants to Taub in return for patient referrals, a deal under which he made about $3 million in referral fees over 10 years through at least two dozen patients. The longtime speaker, a Manhattan Democrat, also reportedly arranged jobs for Taub’s children (including one at a Jewish charity) and allocated funds to Shalom Task Force, a Jewish charity Taub’s wife heads.
The lawmaker also is alleged to have orchestrated a second secret corruption scheme.
In his testimony, Taub said he had known Silver for years before making the referrals and that the two had attended many of the same Passover seders and Jewish weddings. The New York Post said Silver’s lawyer was using “the Passover defense,” noting that the lawyer — trying to characterize the relationship between Taub and Silver as a friendship rather than a quid pro quo — mentioned his client had given Taub a gift of handmade matzah.
Silver earned a reputation as a powerful leader of New York Democrats during more than two decades serving as speaker of the Assembly, the lower house of the State Legislature. He resigned from the post after he was charged in January following an anti-corruption investigation launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013, but remains a member of the Assembly.