Community Members Plead For Leniency in Sheldon Silver Sentencing

City Hall, December 2012.

As we reported yesterday, prosecutors are asking a federal judge to slap former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver with a stiff sentence. After his late-November conviction on corruption charges, they’re calling for a prison term of greater than 14 years.  This morning, we’re publishing the full memorandum from the defense, which includes many letters of support from Mr. Silver’s Lower East Side neighbors.

The document, filed in court yesterday, reveals that Silver, 72, has prostate cancer.  He was diagnosed a year ago and has undergone radiation treatments. The cancer is currently in remission. Defense attorneys are asking Judge Valerie Caproni to take Silver’s medical condition into account when he’s sentenced next month.

The filing also includes a letter of apology from Silver. It reads, in part:

silver apology

There are letters from the former speaker’s children, as well as from Rosa Silver, his wife of 49 years. “Writing this letter is the most difficult thing I have ever done,” she told the judge. “I am not sure what I can say to Your Honor except that my husband is a good man. He has done so much good for his family, which always came first, and also for the people of the State of New York… Please give him as lenient a sentence as possible.”

There are too many letters of support to mention all of them here. They include a wide cross-section of the 65th Assembly District, which Silver represented for almost 40 years. There are neighbors in the Hillman Co-op, where Silver has lived since the 1970s; local rabbis; community leaders, seniors and small business owners.

Mendel Hagler, former executive director of Gouverneur Health, Michael Zisser of University Settlement, Pastor Marc Rivera of Primitive Christian Church and Seward Park Co-op General Manager Frank Durant are just some of those who testify to Silver’s good works on the Lower East Side.

Tenant leaders such as Aixa Torres of the Smith Houses and Grisel Cintron of the Vladeck Houses submitted pleas to the judge. Torres acknowledged Silver’s conviction, but said that through 9/11, two hurricanes and other crises, “Mr. Silver has been present to help our community, and in doing so gave us hope to continue.”

In Chinatown, people such as Justin Yu, head of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce; pharmacist Peter Lau; and Virginia Kee, co-founder of the Chinese American Planning Council, all wrote letters. Kee, explained, “I was truly touched that Assemblyman Sheldon Silver endorsed my candidacy (for district leader in 1985)… At that time very few elected officials paid any attention to Chinatown… It is part of Sheldon Silver’s legacy that our Asian community has been empowered and seeks representation.”

“While Mr. Silver’s many public and private good works do not excuse the conduct on which his conviction rests,” argued defense lawyers, “they – along with his personal circumstances – deserve thoughtful consideration in reaching a result that is truly fair.”  The attorneys also tried to minimize the damage from last week’s revelations regarding Silver’s alleged extra-marital affairs. “Make no mistake,” they wrote, “the Government has not proven them – and certainly has not proven that there was any quid pro quo regarding them – despite its extraordinary investigation of every aspect of Mr. Silver’s life.”

Silver’s legal team is proposing that he be allowed to serve a portion of his term by performing community service at The Fortune Society, a non-profit group that advocates on behalf of criminal justice issues.