Formerly powerful Democrat in NY State sentenced to 12 years in the federal pen
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, once one of New York's most powerful politicians, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison Tuesday following his conviction on corruption charges.
Judge Valerie Caproni also ruled that Silver must pay a $1.75 million fine and forfeit $5 million, the net amount of money prosecutors said he earned through two kickback schemes. Silver was told to surrender to prison by noon on July 1.
"Corruption attacks the very heart of our system of government," Caproni said, adding that her sentence would send a message that "corruption is going to be dealt with seriously."
Before he was sentenced, Silver spoke briefly in a quiet voice, saying that he "let down" his family, colleagues and constituents.
“Shelly” Silver, as he was almost universally known among his many, many friends in the New York Democratic Party, represented lower Manhattan (aka Wall Street) in the State Assembly for 40 years. He ran the State Assembly, and if you think what he was caught at was the sole indiscretion of an otherwise virtuous life, and unusual in anything but the size of his money grab, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
At the center of Silver's downfall was the issue of how business and politics intermingle in Albany. Prosecutors said Silver abused his power for personal gain, while defense attorneys argued that Silver was acting within the law, even if people were uncomfortable with a system that allows for legislators to earn an outside salary.
Prosecutors said Silver had earned kickbacks through work he professed to do for personal injury law firm Weitz & Luxenberg.
In that scheme, prosecutors said Columbia doctor, Robert Taub, would send patients with mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer, to the firm via Silver. The doctor would receive $500,000 in research money, while Silver earned referral fees.
In addition, prosecutors said Silver took what he considered referral fees from a real estate tax law firm while directing tax breaks to two developers, including the state's largest political donor, Glenwood Management.
During the trial, prosecutors said Silver lied about his work by claiming none of his clients had business with the state, though he was being lobbied by Glenwood.
Along with the corruption presented at trial, the judge also considered evidence recently unsealed that showed Silver had two extramarital affairs with women who had business before the state.
Hat tip: Clarice Feldman