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Former Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been sentneced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for bribery and corruption.
Judge Valerie Caproni handed down the sentence Monday afternoon in front of the crooked Democrat, who was ordered to appear in person in the courtroom despite a desperate effort by his lawyers to hold the hearing remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“This was corruption pure and simple,” Judge Caproni told Silver to his face.
“The time, however, has now come for Mr. Silver to pay the piper,” the judge said before handing down the 78-month sentence and a $1 million fine.
Nypost.com reports: Before the term was handed down, Silver stood up, pulled down his face mask with a latex-gloved hand and briefly addressed the court.
“I was so angry with myself and still am. But now that anger has mainly turned to sadness,” he said in a feeble voice as his wife, Rosa Silver, watched from the gallery. “My use of my office for personal gain was improper, selfish and ethically indefensible.”
He said he had worked tirelessly to help a lot of people over 35 years but had “destroyed that legacy” with his criminal acts.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Silver’s lawyer, James Loonam, had pushed for a “substantial term of home confinement and rigorous community service” in light of the pandemic.
He argued that Silver was at “very serious risk” if he contracts the virus in custody, given his advanced age and poor health.
“He doesn’t deserve a premature death or to die in prison,” said the lawyer, adding that Silver had also done “a lot of good” while in office.
The judge ordered Silver to surrender Aug. 26 at noon to the facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons in the coming weeks. His lawyers have requested he serve his time in FCI Otisville, in Orange County, NY.
Prosecutors had pushed for seven years, the same term Caproni gave him before a higher court overturned part of Silver’s conviction.
“He abused his office, he did it for profit, he did it for at least 15 years,” said U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal. “The only reason he stands to be sentenced on fewer counts today is because he was so good at hiding what he did.”
The sentencing ended years-long battle by Silver, once the most powerful politician in Albany, to avoid prison after being twice convicted by a jury on all counts related to corrupt kickback schemes he ran while in office.
Silver’s first conviction was fully overturned in 2017 after an appeals court ruled the jury instructions in the trial did not meet a new definition of corruption that had been adopted by the Supreme Court.
Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side, was retried by prosecutors, convicted on all counts and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2018 for accepting nearly $4 million in bribes in two separate schemes.
He remained free on bail while appealing the ruling — but earlier this year the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction on four of the charges.
In their opinion, a panel of three Second Circuit Court judges unanimously affirmed that Silver had illegally used his office to benefit two real estate developers in exchange for cash.
“The Real Estate Scheme presents a significantly different factual scenario that more closely resembles classic bribery‐based crimes,” wrote Judge Richard Wesley on behalf of the panel.
In the scheme, Silver allegedly steered the real estate developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group, to do tax business with a law firm that gave Silver hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In exchange, Silver backed legislation that benefited real estate developers, including provisions to 2011 rent legislation that were specifically tailored to benefit Glenwood.
In the charges that were vacated, prosecutors alleged that Silver directed the state health department to steer $500,000 in grants to Columbia University cancer doctor Robert Taub.
Taub then agreed to refer mesothelioma patients to Weitz & Luxenberg, a law firm where Silver worked. Silver allegedly gained millions of dollars from the scheme, but the convictions were thrown out since the bulk of the corrupt activity was outside the statute of limitations.
For the misconduct that wasn’t time-barred, the panel ruled that prosecutors had failed to sufficiently prove a quid pro quo.