Silver Receives 12 Years in Prison in Federal Corruption Case

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gets 12 years in prison for federal corruption, plus significant fines and forfeitures of assets. State House Reporter Zack Fink was in the courtroom and has the story.

It was the final shoe to drop in the federal corruption trial of Sheldon Silver, the man who was once the most powerful Democrat in New York State, who looked haggard and forlorn in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday.

Judge Valerie Caproni sentenced Silver to 12 years in prison on his federal corruption conviction.

Silver also has to pay a $1.75 million fine and must forfeit about $5.3 million in ill-gotten gains, which is about what the government sought in terms of fines and forfeitures.

"I think it's a very appropriate and correct sentence given that Shelly Silver stole from the state government, stole from the taxpayers, violated the public trust, and abused the confidence of his colleagues," Dick Dadey of Citizens Union said.

Silver was asked to turn himself in by July 1.

In the next ten days, his attorneys intend to file paperwork asking that he remain free, pending appeal.

But some believe he could avoid jail time altogether, with a case dealing with honest services fraud currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 72-year-old Silver was convicted of honest services fraud — as well as extortion — last year.

"I don't think there's any accident about why that date was set," attorney Robert Ray said. "The Supreme Court is going to render a verdict in the Governor McDonnell case before the end of June. A July 1 sentencing date is the surrender date, but that has to be taken with a measure of should Sheldon Silver be released on bail pending appeal."

Prosecutors pushed for a prison sentence of at least 15 years, which would have been longer than the 14 years that former Brooklyn State Assembly Member William Boyland received Sept. 2015.

Prosecutors said they wanted an example to be set.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought the case before the court, called the sentencing a "fitting end" to Silver's "long career of corruption."

"Today’s decision sent a simple message that officials who abuse the public's trust will be held accountable," Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had negotiated four state budgets with Silver, said in a statement. "Justice was served."

"I think it's a tragedy what happened. I think it's exceedingly sad. But again, I am not a lawyer, I don't know the details of the case," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "I think it is clear that something was done wrong, but I can't go into the nuances of it."

The judge went through the charges and explained that ultimately the casualty here was people's faith in the government, of which the judge said Silver took advantage.

There was a lot of back and forth between the defense and the prosecution over whether Silver was contrite.

Silver did speak very briefly in court when asked to make a statement, and he reiterated what he said in a letter last month, in which Silver expressed remorse, admitting that he let down the people of New York State and his Lower Manhattan constituents.

In court, Silver's defense lawyers cited letters from people in the community and supporters who said he had a lifetime of public service, which should be taken into account.

The defense also cited the former State Assembly speaker's health. A letter written by his wife last month revealed that he had prostate cancer, which is now in remission.

Silver's supporters said that should be a factor in sentencing, and the judge said she would consider it when imposing sentencing.

Silver is slated to be on a supervised release period of two years after his 12 years.

Silver's incarceration facility has not yet been chosen.

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