In advance of his sentencing this coming Friday, July 27, Sheldon Silver is pleading with Federal Judge Valerie Caproni to consider alternatives to a lengthy prison sentence.
In May, the former Lower East Side assemblyman was found guilty in a $4 million bribery and kickback scheme. The judge sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison after his first conviction in 2016, but that original verdict was invalidated when the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of political corruption.
In court papers filed last week, prosecutors said, “We believe that the defendant was motivated by greed. Silver is an example of why the public has lost faith in their elected officials.” The U.S. Attorney wants a sentence, “substantially in excess of 10 years.”
But Silver, in a letter to Judge Caproni, wrote:
As you consider my sentence, please know how deeply sorry I am. I am broken-hearted to have damaged the ability of my fellow New Yorkers to trust in their government and the integrity of those who serve in it. The only confidence I have left is thanks to the strength and support of my wife, who is my rock, but we are both crumbling. I worry about my grandchildren and how they will be treated because of me. I worry that my wife will be destitute. I worry about her trying to visit me while continuing to be a full-time helper for her 93 year old mother. I worry about my own age and health. I pray I will not die in prison. The work that has been the focus of most of my life has become dirty and shameful. Everything I ever accomplished has become a joke and a spectacle. My family’s chances of living a normal life and my wife’s hopes of a restful retirement have all been torn apart. I hardly sleep. I think of nothing except this case, and everything and everyone that has been affected by it. I have read and reread the transcript of your words at my previous sentencing and I am filled with shame.Your Honor, when you weigh what sentence to deliver, please know that I have fully taken this experience to heart. Please know that I have already lost so much that I can never replace and I will always live with the knowledge of those I failed. I beg for your mercy so that I can somehow go out into the world again to atone to everyone I have hurt.
Judge Caproni said she carefully considered “all of the very kind letters” from people pleading for leniency. She called Silver an unusually gifted politician who “went beyond the call of duty” for his constituents… At the same time, however, Caproni said she concluded during the course of the trial that “New York State suffered tangible harm” from the former assembly speaker’s actions over many years… “Silver’s corruption cast a shadow over everything he has done,” she said. The judge said her task was to decide whether Silver was a basically decent man who had simply gone astray, or whether he was fundamentally corrupt. In the end, she concluded that he was confronted on many occasions with the opportunity to “make things right,” yet he didn’t change his behavior. “I hope the sentence I impose on you will make other politicians think twice, until their better angels take over,” said Caproni. “Or, if there are no better angels, perhaps the fear of living out one’s golden years in an orange jumpsuit will keep them on the straight and narrow.”
Prosecutors alleged that Silver pocketed $4 million in exchange for performing “official acts” in his role as Assembly speaker. These included directing grants to a cancer researcher, who referred cases to a law firm where Silver worked, and enacting legislation beneficial to real estate developers.