Former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison for using his vast power to line his own pockets with $5.3 million.
Manhattan Federal Court Judge Valerie Caproni slammed the adulterous Lower East Side Democrat as one of the most crooked elected officials the state has ever seen.
“Silver’s corruption cast a shadow over everything he has done,” Caproni said.
“Those are not the actions of a basically honest person. Those are the action of a scheming, corrupt politician.”
Sheldon Silver leaves federal court after he was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday.
Sheldon Silver’s wife Rosa had prayed the court for clemency, before sentencing. She will keep his New Jersy home while Silver serves time
The disgraced pol slouched in his chair as the judge spoke, occasionally squinting his eyes. Caproni ordered Silver, 72, to pay a fine of $1.75 million, the majority of which he must pay by June. Caproni also ordered he forfeit $5.3 million, representing the total of his criminal proceeds.
In brief remarks to the packed courtroom, Silver apologized.
“Without question, I’ve let down my family, my colleagues, my constituents,” he said. “I’m truly, truly sorry for that.”
In a letter made public last week, the spurned spouse, his wife Rosa silver had written the court, also pleading for mercy.
“I am not sure what I can say to Your Honor except that my husband is a good man,” Rosa Silver wrote in the letter, dated two weeks before allegations of his affairs emerged. “He has done so much good for his family, which always came first, and also for the people of the state of New York.”
Judge Valerie E. Caproni: “I hope the sentence I impose on you will make the next politician hesitate before accepting a kickback or bribe,”
Rosa Silver also worries that her 72-year-old spouse, who recently battled prostate cancer, will languish in prison.
“I also know Your Honor is aware of Shelly’s health issues, and it terrifies me that his father and brother both died from the same kind of cancer Shelly was diagnosed with,” she said. “I am afraid he will be sick and, even worse, alone.”
Sheldon Silver has also asked Caproni to consider his good works — after offering a mea culpa of sorts.
The five-week trial, which culminated last November, made Caproni reflect on the damage caused by Silver’s ill-gotten gains.
“Here’s the thing about corruption — it makes the public very cynical,” she said. “Did Silver do things because they were nice, or because there was something in it for him?”
The sentence should deter politicians from following in Silver’s disgraced footsteps, she said.
“I hope the sentence I impose on you will make the next politician hesitate before accepting a kickback or bribe,” she said, adding that the most unscrupulous legislators would hopefully feel, at the minimum, “fear of living out their golden years in an orange jumpsuit.”
Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen urged Caproni to hit Silver with the harshest sentence ever imposed on an Albany pol.
“His bribery and kickback schemes were multifaceted and nefarious,” Cohen told the court. “No excuses, just pure greed.”
Caproni’s sentence did not exceed the 14 years given to ex-Assemblyman William Boyland last year.
Silver attorney Joel Cohen pleaded for mercy.
“He is already crushed. He has been devastated,” he said. “His obituary has already been written about it.”
Cohen added his client was diagnosed with prostate cancer that is in remission.
The sentence likely represents the zenith of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s ongoing investigation of what he’s called a “show-me-the-money culture” in the cesspool of Albany politics.
“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption,” Bharara said.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has bashed Albany as a “cauldron of corruption.”
Gov. Cuomo, who has been criticized by Bharara for his handling of corruption in Albany, hailed the verdict.
“Today’s decision sent a simple message that officials who abuse the public’s trust will be held accountable. Justice was served,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Silver’s successor, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), would not say if Silver’s sentencing would lead to any further ethics reforms this session.
“It’s the ending of a sad chapter,” he said, adding that he believed “people still have the confidence that their elected officials will do the right thing.”
Heastie’s comments came the same day Silver’s handpicked successor in his district, Alice Cancel, took her seat in the Assembly for the first time.
Mayor de Blasio, whose administration is also the subject of a federal probe, had little to say about the verdict.
“I think it’s exceedingly sad, but again I am not a lawyer,” de Blasio said.
At trial, prosecutors detailed the shady ways Silver used taxpayer money to maintain his influence starting in 2003 with essentially no oversight.
In one arrangement, Silver secretly funneled $500,000 in state money to Columbia University Dr. Robert Taub’s mesothelioma research. In return, the decorated doctor gave Silver leads on his patients suffering from the deadly effects of asbestos exposure. Silver then directed those patients to the personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which paid the pol over $3 million in referral fees.
Patricia Lynch, the lobbyist with whom Silver is accused of cheating.
In the second scheme, Silver told two major developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group, to hire the law firm Goldberg & Iryami for litigation challenging city tax assessments.
Goldberg & Iryami, in turn, secretly paid Silver $700,000 for these referrals. As part of their request for a harsh sentence, prosecutors alleged last month that Silver was in bed with lobbyist Patricia Lynch, literally and former Assemblywoman Janele Hyer-Spencer.
Silver’s attorneys called the affairs “simply unproven and salacious allegations.”
Over 15 Albany politicians have been convicted of corruption since 2009, according to a list compiled by prosecutors.
Silver is pursuing several appeals.