Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, once one of the state’s most powerful politicians, will spend the better part of a decade behind bars after being convicted on corruption charges.
A federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Silver, 76, to six-and-a-half years in prison on Monday, July 20 following his 2018 conviction. The former Democratic leader, who acknowledged his wrongdoing at his sentencing, was also ordered to pay a $1 million fine.
Silver, who at one point represented most of Manhattan, was found guilty of two counts of honest service wire fraud, two counts of honest services mail fraud, two counts of extortion under the color of official right and one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions in 2018.
He was found guilty of the same charges in November 2015, but that conviction was overturned.
Silver resigned as the Assembly speaker in 2015 after 21 years following his initial conviction. His lawyers had sought a sentence of home confinement and community service, citing Silver’s age, health, and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Federal officials said that for more than two decades, while serving as the speaker, Silver “used this immense power – including, in particular, his power over the real estate industry and his control over certain health care funding – to unlawfully and corruptly enrich himself.”
“Your Honor, I do not want to die in prison,” Silver wrote in a letter to the judge. “This case has been going on for more than five years, but I feel like I have aged 15 or 20 years. My fate is in your hands.”
Silver was found guilty of soliciting client referrals worth millions of dollars in exchange for official acts and then attempted to disguise that money as legitimate income earned from his work as a private attorney. He is expected to begin serving his sentence in the fall.
“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,” prosecutors said at the time of his conviction. “Instead, he leveraged his tremendous influence to pad his bank account and line his pockets.
“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,” they added. “I thank the career prosecutors of this Office for their perseverance in this important case for the people of New York.”
Silver is expected to report to Otisville federal prison in Orange County on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
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