As City & State’s First Read newsletter put it this morning, Sheldon Silver, “finally, honestly, truly for real this time is heading to prison.”
On Monday, a federal court judge sentenced the former Lower East Side assemblyman to 6-and-one-half years in prison and fined him $1 million. The once powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly was convicted twice on public corruption charges and has dodged going to jail for more than five years.
Silver’s lawyers argued against a prison term, invoking health risks due to the coronavirus epidemic. But Judge Valerie Caproni said, “Mr. Silver, his time has come… He needs to go to jail.” It’s the third time she sentenced Silver. Courts overturned earlier convictions. In a story earlier this week, The New York Times noted Silver’s elusiveness, from both political rivals and the law. “Even in recent years,” the Times wrote, “while his convictions were under appeal, occasional sightings of Mr. Silver around his Lower Manhattan neighborhood seemed to symbolize, in the view of his critics, a kind of imperviousness to accountability.”
In 2015, Silver was convicted of pocketing almost $4 million in payments in exchange for official actions that benefited a cancer researcher and real estate developers. He was convicted a second time after the original verdict was tossed out on appeal. Earlier this year, a higher court invalidated Silver’s conviction on some counts, while allowing others to stand.
Sheldon Silver leaving federal courthouse in Manhattan after being sentenced to prison. pic.twitter.com/rUdoLRLN0k
— Luis Ferré-Sadurní (@luisferre) July 20, 2020
On Monday, Silver told the judge, “My use of my office for personal gain was improper, selfish and ethically indefensible… I want to be clear: What I did was wrong,” He added, “I know that a lot of people have lost faith in their government… and I know that my actions contributed to that loss of faith.” At the same time, Silver said he believes he did good things for constituents in the 65th Assembly District over many decades. “I thought I was pretty good at it (being a legislator), and I think we helped a lot of people… But I destroyed that legacy.”
Caproni said she didn’t want to see Silver, who’s 76 years old, die in prison, and indicated that precautions could be taken to protect his health. Silver is required to report to prison on Aug. 26. The Bureau of Prisons will determine where he will be jailed.