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Appeals court panel sympathetic to Sheldon Silver's claims

Former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver's quest to avoid prison got a boost when a panel of appeals judges heard his appeal.

NEW YORK — Former New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver's quest to avoid prison got a boost when a panel of appeals judges heard his appeal.

The Democrat wasn't at oral arguments Wednesday before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan but he likely heard a positive report from his lawyers.

Two of the panel's three judges questioned whether Silver's actions fit the definition of a public corruption crime.

Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan said a description by prosecutors of what Silver promised to do in return for business steered to a law firm was "pretty squishy."

Silver is appealing his conviction and seven-year prison sentence. Prosecutors say he collected nearly $4 million in fees to help a cancer researcher and real estate developers. An earlier conviction was overturned.