Sheldon Silver Faces Sentencing Tomorrow

Sheldon Silver, 2016.
Sheldon Silver, March 2015.

Tomorrow afternoon, Sheldon Silver will find out how long he’ll serve in prison after a jury convicted him this past November on federal corruption charges.

The longtime Lower East Side lawmaker was found guilty on seven counts, including honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Prosecutors have urged Judge Valerie Caproni to impose a prison term of more than 14 years. The court’s probation department suggested 10 years. The U.S. Attorney also wants Silver to hand over $5 million and pay a $1 million fine.  Prosecutors decided, however, not to go after his apartment in the Hillman Cooperative on Grand Street and a home in Woodbridge, New York.

Defense attorneys asked for a shorter term, even suggesting community service as an alternative. They would like the judge to take into consideration Mr. Silver’s good works as a legislator. About 100 letters were submitted on his behalf.  The lawyers have also advocated for leniency because their client is being treated for prostate cancer.

According to the Daily News, it isn’t clear whether Silver will be able to delay serving his sentence until appeals are exhausted:

Manhattan Federal Judge Valerie Caproni could either rule Silver remain free while his appeal is heard, set a date for him to report to prison, or order he be taken into custody immediately, a source close to the case said.

In another story today, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the judge had a lot of leeway in deciding what sentence is appropriate:

U.S. law says judges should decide sentences based not only on the offense, but also the defendant’s “history and characteristics.” Also relevant, the law says, are deterrence, public protection and the needs of the defendant, including medical care. In court filings, Mr. Silver’s lawyers have highlighted his prostate cancer, bile-duct obstruction and knee problems. For judges, sentencing in public-corruption cases presents a particular quandary: While the convicted official usually isn’t considered a threat to public safety, or capable of committing the same crimes in the future, the government has an incentive to punish such officials harshly to deter others from similar offenses. “The difficulty you have in high-profile cases is that there is a philosophical argument that general deterrence sometimes trumps all other factors,” said Benjamin Brafman, a defense attorney not connected to the Silver case who represented Carl Kruger, a former state senator who was convicted on public-corruption charges and sentenced to seven years.

We’ll have full coverage of Silver’s sentencing tomorrow.