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Notable New York Democrat Sheldon Silver sentenced to six-plus years for corruption scheme: ‘I don’t want to die in prison’

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Former New York Speaker of the House Sheldon Silver, 76, was sentenced to six years in federal prison stemming from corruption scheme charges for which he was convicted after two trials spanning several years.

Mr. Silver tarnished his oath, betrayed trust, and abused enormous power considering it became known that he and others resorted to a corruption scheme involving millions in kickbacks for political favor.

A member of the New York Assembly for decades, Silver was described by the New York Post as a “powerbroker.” In an ironic way, that label seems wholly applicable: Silver possessed enormous power and he brokered deals and pocketed money, wittingly breaking the law.

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Presiding over the case, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni ordered Silver to appear “personally” after his defense counsel team argued for virtual attendance, given the coronavirus restrictions and increased threat to aged folks like the defendant.

In person, Silver listened as Judge Caproni meted out justice. “This was corruption pure and simple,” Judge Caproni pointedly conveyed to Silver, sentencing him to six and one-half years in federal custody and a whopping $1 million fine–one quarter of the roughly $4 million in bribe he received from two separate corruption schemes having to do with a few real estate developers offering money in exchange for favorable contracts. Silver was in a position to wave his House Speaker wand and make it so.

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One of a trio of judges who heard arguments in a prior trial centered on Silver as defendant summed Silver’s corruption. “The Real Estate Scheme presents a significantly different factual scenario that more closely resembles classic bribery‐based crimes,” Judge Richard Wesley wrote into the record, per the New York Post.

For his crimes and address to the court, Silver offered, “I was so angry with myself and still am. But now that anger has mainly turned to sadness. My use of my office for personal gain was improper, selfish and ethically indefensible.”

Now that all parties understand each other and Silver comes to terms with the stark reality he created, namely a stint in prison, his decades-long role as a noted powerful figure in the New York State capitol of Albany where he served as House Speaker ends with time in a prison cell.

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Once heralded as “the most powerful politician in Albany,” Silver, also a lawyer at Weitz & Luxenberg, was ultimately “twice convicted by a jury on all counts related to corrupt kickback schemes he ran while in office,” the Post explained.

A New York Times report indicated what some may describe as a last-ditch attempt to save his hide. Silver reportedly sent the judge a letter prior to sentencing, emphasizing the potential of contracting COVID during a federal prison stint—he requested house arrest. It was denied, despite his words in the letter, as follows: “Your Honor, I do not want to die in prison.”

According to Benjamin Weiser and Jesse McKinley, “Mr. Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan’s Lower East Side, served more than two decades as speaker, wielding extraordinary influence in state politics and developing a reputation for brushing off threats and challenges, whether from political rivals or prosecutors.” Today, that reign is over.

meet the author

Stephen Owsinski is a LifeZette contributing editor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is also a columnist for the National Police Association.

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