New York Daily News – by VICTORIA BEKIEMPIS, STEPHEN REX BROWN
For two decades, Sheldon Silver served as one of the most powerful men in New York State. On Tuesday, a judge ordered he serve the next 12 years in prison.
The allegedly adulterous ex-State Assembly Speaker, convicted of twin corruption schemes that earned him $4 million, was slammed by was slammed by Manhattan Federal Court Judge Valerie Caproni as being one of the most corrupt elected officials the state has ever seen.
“Silver’s corruption cast a shadow over everything he has done,” Caproni said before handing down her sentence.
“Those are not the actions of a basically honest person. Those are the action of a scheming, corrupt politician.”
The crooked Lower East Side Democrat slouched in his chair as the judge spoke.
Caproni ordered Silver, 72, to pay a fine of $1.75 million – the majority of which he must pay by June.
Caproni also ordered he forfeit $5.3 million – a figure representing the total of his criminal proceeds.
In brief remarks to the packed courtroom, Silver apologized.
“Without question I’ve let down my family, my colleagues, my constituency,” he said. “I’m truly, truly sorry.”
Prior to the proceeding, Silver said he would appeal.
“It’s just the next step,” Silver told The News. “You have to go through this before you can appeal.”
The five-week trial, which culminated in November, had made Caproni reflect on the nature of corruption that, she said, create “doubts that end up corroding trust in government.”
“Here’s the thing about corruption: it makes the public very cynical,” she said.
“Did Silver do things because they were nice, or because there was something in it for him?”
The sentence would hopefully deter politicians from following in Silver’s disgraced footsteps, she said.
“I hope the sentence I impose on you will make the next politician hesitate before accepting a kickback or bribe,” she said, adding that the most unscrupulous legislators would hopefully feel, at the minimum, “fear of living out their golden years in an orange jumpsuit.”
Assistant Manhattan U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen urged Caproni to hit Silver with a significant sentence, decrying how his actions eroded public trust in government.
“His bribery and kickback schemes were multifaceted and nefarious,” she told the court, saying there’s “no excuse, just pure greed.”
One of Silver’s lawyers, Joel Cohen, said the ex-lawmaker “won’t weather this storm.”
“Whatever leniency we have from you you your honor, he is already crushed. He has been devastated,” Cohen said.
“His obituary has already been written about it.”
Another one of Silver’s lawyers, Steven Molo, asked Caproni to hand down a sentence of house arrest and community service, saying that “punishment has already been inflicted” on Silver.
The sentence likely represents the zenith of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s ongoing investigation of what he’s called a “show-me-the-money culture” in the cesspool of Albany politics.
“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption,” Bharara tweeted just minutes after the verdict.
During a five-week trial prosecutors detailed the shady ways the former Lower East Side pol used taxpayer money to maintain his influence starting in 2003 with essentially no oversight.
In one corrupt arrangement, Silver secretly funneled $500,000 in state money to Columbia University Dr. Robert Taub’s mesothelioma research. In return, the decorated doctor gave Silver leads on his patients suffering from the deadly effects of asbestos exposure.
Silver then directed those patients to the personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg, which paid the pol $3 million in referral fees.
In the second scheme, Silver told two prominent developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group, to hire the law firm Goldberg & Iryami for litigation challenging city tax assessments.
Goldberg & Iryami, in turn, secretly handed Silver $700,000 for these referrals.
When Silver recommended the firm he didn’t tell the developers he would receive a referral fee, testimony revealed.
Prosecutors had asked Caproni’s sentence for Silver exceed the 14 years imposed on former Assembly William Boyland last year for bribery and theft of public money.
That sentence would have been longer than any state politician found guilty of similar crimes, federal prosecutors said in court papers.
“The harm he caused spilled out from his district to our entire state,” Cohen said.
“The defendant here has an unparalleled record of corruption his office…A rich record of deceit and lies.”
As part of their request for a harsh sentence, prosecutors revealed last month that Silver was in bed with a lobbyist – literally – and a former assemblywoman.
Silver’s attorneys Joel Cohen and Steven Molo called the affairs “simply unproven and salacious allegations.”
The lawyers had urged Caproni impose a light sentence of “rigorous community service” and minimal financial penalties. They said the judge should also consider Silver’s good deeds as a public servant.
“He used his voice to help the little guy, time and time again,” Cohen said.
At least 31 Albany pols have been forced out of office due to crime or other scandals since 2004.
A whopping 15 Albany politicians have been convicted in Brooklyn or Manhattan federal courts since 2009, according to a list compiled by prosecutors.
Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is to be sentenced on corruption charges this month, along with his son, Adam.
With Joseph Stepnasky, Barbara Ross