The once powerful Lower East Side assemblyman, Sheldon Silver, was sentenced today to seven years in prison after a federal jury this past spring convicted him on public corruption charges.
In 2016, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni handed Silver a 12-year prison term. The first verdict was thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of public corruption. Today the same judge said that, “upon further reflection,” she had decided on a shorter sentence for the former assembly speaker.
In court today, she observed, “Mr. Silver is generally a healthy 74-year old man. But visually he has aged more than the three years that have gone by chronologically” (since the original 2015 trial). In a letter to the judge, Silver wrote, “I pray I will not die in prison,” and his lawyers asked that he be able to perform community service rather than being sentenced to a long prison term. In court this afternoon, Silver added, “The last three years have been enormously difficult for me. He expressed regret without admitting criminal misconduct. “The events that are outlined in these trials have brought a great distrust in New York government. I am extremely remorseful for that.”
Caproni praised the ex-New York power broker for the apology, saying, “That was a wise decision on Mr. Silver’s part,” but added, “Mr. Silver’s conduct clearly caused discernible harm.” She chided him for failing to acknowledge what, “24 citizens in two trials concluded” that he engaged in criminal behavior. “He seems to have not come to terms with what many people think about politicians — that they are deeply corrupt.” Referencing Albany’s culture of corruption, Caproni asserted, “This has to stop… New York state has to get its act together and do something institutionally to stop corruption.”
Prosecutors argued at trial that Silver pocketed almost $4 million in illegal payments in exchange for taking official actions to help two influential real estate firms and a cancer researcher. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman asked for a term “substantially in excess” of 10 years. Following this afternoon’s sentencing, Berman said:
When he assumed his powerful position at the top of New York State government, Sheldon Silver took an oath to do the work of the people. Instead, he leveraged his tremendous influence to pad his bank account and line his pockets. Sheldon Silver has been given a lengthy sentence of seven years in federal prison. We hope today’s fittingly stiff sentence sends a clear message: brokering official favors for your personal benefit is illegal and will result in prison time. I thank the career prosecutors of this Office for their perseverance in this important case for the people of New York.
In addition to the prison sentence, Caproni ordered Siilver to pay $1.7 million in fines. He’s scheduled to surrender Oct. 5, but has promised to appeal. Upon leaving court, Silver had little to say. He pushed his way past a swarm of TV cameras and reporters to a car waiting for him at the curb.