Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sentenced to 12 years in prison

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sentenced to 12 years in prison

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sentenced to 12 years in prison
May 3, 2016

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison, and he will be forced to forfeit $5.3 million and will pay a $1.75 million fine as a result of his conviction on corruption charges late last year.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office arrested and convicted Silver, issued a statement calling the punishment appropriate, given Silver’s crimes.

“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption,” Bharara wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. Bharara also noted that the $1.75 million fine was the maximum allowed, taking into account Silver’s taxpayer-funded pension.

Before sentencing, Silver’s defense attorneys argued for leniency and cited the “good deeds” he accomplished during his 40-year political career. They asked for house arrest and community service. Silver briefly spoke and said he let down his family and constituents.

“I’m truly, truly sorry,” Silver said.

But the judge apparently was not fully swayed by the defense team’s arguments.

“Whether or not there was tangible harm, there was an incalculable intangible harm to the people of New York,” U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni said during sentencing, according to posts on Twitter. “Here’s the thing about corruption. It makes the public very cynical."

Silver was convicted on Nov. 30 on seven counts, including honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion, relating to two different schemes. He faced up to 120 years in prison, or 20 years for six of the seven counts against him.

Caproni cited Silver’s age and health as reasons for the lighter prison sentence. Silver recently announced he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

One of Silver’s schemes involved funneling cancer research funding to Columbia University’s Dr. Robert Taub. In exchange, prosecutors said, Taub referred mesothelioma patients to Silver’s law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, and Silver would collect a percentage on the referral fee.

A second scheme involved two real estate development firms, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group. Prosecutors said Silver convinced them to move legal services to a firm that would give Silver kickbacks. In exchange, Silver met with the firm’s lobbyists and ultimately supported housing and rent regulation bills favorable to the firms.

The 72-year-old Silver must surrender by July 1, 2016. Silver’s lawyers asked that he be sent to Otisville prison camp, a frequent destination for Orthodox Jewish prisoners. Caproni said she would recommend that destination, though she added she doesn’t have ultimate control over where Silver will serve his prison time.

Silver’s lawyer said after the sentencing that the former lawmaker would appeal in federal court, Newsday reported.

Bharara’s office also arrested and successfully convicted former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Skelos will be sentenced on May 12 and a week after that, former state Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, also convicted on corruption charges, will be sentenced as well.

While Silver was in court in Manhattan, his replacement, Alice Cancel, was officially seated in the Assembly at the state Capitol in Albany after being elected April 19.

Current Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie responded to the news shortly after Silver was sentenced.

“It’s the end of, I’d say, a dark chapter for the Assembly and I guess we have to get back to life,” Heastie told reporters.

Ashley Hupfl