Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver leaves U.S. District Court after he was sentenced to 6½ years in prison in the Manhattan borough of New York.
(The Center Square) – For 21 years, Sheldon Silver was one of the three most powerful men in New York state, part of a triumvirate that steered the ship of state and a political figure who sought to leave his stamp on the state Assembly.
But soon he will be, instead, a federal inmate after he was sentenced Monday to 6½ years in prison.
The Manhattan Democrat served in the Assembly for 38 years, including 21 of those as speaker. Traditionally, budget negotiations in New York have involved the famous “three men in a room” scenario as the governor, speaker and Senate majority leader hash out agreements.
But according to federal prosecutors, Silver also was making financial deals of a different sort – ones that were illegal. He was convicted in November 2015 on charges that he accepted $4 million in illegal payments from real estate developers and a cancer researcher. His original conviction was overturned, but a second trial in 2018 also resulted in a conviction.
Silver temporarily evaded incarceration yet again when his sentence from the 2018 conviction was thrown out, but Monday’s sentence is expected to spell the end of Silver’s hopes of avoiding imprisonment.
The former speaker’s attorney sought home confinement, arguing that the 76-year-old is in poor health and at risk of coronavirus infection. But U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni said that Silver’s actions constituted “corruption, pure and simple” and that justice demanded that he pay a higher price.
The majority of Silver’s time as speaker coincided with the tenures of Republican Gov. George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, also a Republican. The trio led the state for more than a decade, with Silver effectively the leader of the Democratic Party in the state.
Bruno, like Silver, also saw his leadership cut short by a corruption conviction, but after Bruno’s case was overturned, he was acquitted in a retrial in 2014.
Prosecutor Daniel Richenthal argued Monday that Silver’s actions in soliciting bribes were part of a pattern of corruption that demanded prison time.
“He abused his office,” Richenthal said, according to Newsday. “He did it for profit. He did it for at least 15 years. He did it in multiple ways and he lied about it for years in multiple ways.”