Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and fined $1 million on Monday on corruption charges for taking money in exchange for pushing favorable legislation.
Formerly one of the most influential men in state politics, Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, served as speaker from 1994 until his arrest in 2015. Silver accepted payments from a real estate firm, Glenwood Management, of New Hyde Park, as well as Dr. Robert Taub, an oncologist associated with Columbia University. In return, Silver used his platform to direct state actions that benefited the two. Glenwood Management did not respond to requests for comment.
Monday was Silver’s third time being sentenced for the same crimes. He was initially convicted of corruption in 2015 and sentenced to 12 years in prison but that verdict was overturned after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case narrowed the definition of bribery and increased the prosecution’s burden of proving an official engaged in a quid pro quo.
Silver was then found guilty again in 2018 on seven counts of bribery, extortion, money laundering and honest services fraud. Silver was sentenced to seven years in prison. A series of appeals have kept him out of jail so far. U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni took six months off the sentence on Monday.
Caproni said a sentence of this length was “long enough to send a message to Albany,” and added that the 17 to 22 years that federal sentencing guidelines recommend was “draconian,” the Associated Press reported.
Silver’s defense lawyers tried to argue that Silver, 76, could die if he contracted the novel coronavirus in prison and therefore should have a more lenient sentence, but that was ignored by the judge, according to the AP.
Silver pleaded in 2018 as well to have his sentence reduced, saying that the yearslong legal proceedings had been humiliating enough.
“Everything I ever accomplished has become a joke and a spectacle. I pray I will not die in prison,” Silver wrote in a letter to The New York Times two years ago.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was indicted on corruption charges as well for taking payments from Glenwood Management. Skelos was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison in 2018 but was released in late April, over two years early, according to a Newsday report. The early release was due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.