NEW YORK — Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s 12-year prison sentence in a $5 million corruption case sends a message that officials who abuse the public’s trust will be held accountable, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said shortly after the sentencing.
“Justice was served,” Cuomo said May 3. Silver, a 72-year-old Manhattan Democrat, lowered his head and closed his eyes as U.S. Judge Valerie Caproni announced his fate.
“I hope the sentence I impose upon you will make other politicians think twice until their better angels take over — or, if there are no better angels, perhaps the fear of living out his golden years in an orange jumpsuit,” said Caproni. Silver also was ordered to forfeit $5.3 million and pay a $1.75 million fine.
As Silver left court, he told reporters that he’s looking toward appeals. “I believe in the justice system, and we will pursue all remedies that are available,” Silver said. He’s remains free on bail, and is scheduled to report to prison July 1.
Silver led the Assembly for more than two decades before he became the centerpiece of one of the state’s steepest political falls from grace.
A Federal jury convicted him last year of using his official position to obtain nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his official acts and obtaining another $1 million through laundering the proceeds of his crimes.
“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
The sentence comes as Bharara works to clean up a state government that he has called a “cauldron of corruption.”
More than 30 other state lawmakers have left office under a cloud of criminal or ethical allegations since 2000. More than a dozen have been convicted of charges including authorizing bribes to get on a ballot, diverting money meant for community programs into a campaign and skimming funds from contributions to a Little League baseball program.
Only Democratic former Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., convicted of taking bribes, is serving a longer sentence than Silver’s.
Silver’s former state Senate counterpart, Republican ex-Majority Leader Dean Skelos, is due to be sentenced later this month on his own corruption conviction. Skelos was found guilty, at a separate trial, of using his position to arrange payments and a job for his son.
Silver and Skelos comprised two of the so-called “three men in a room” who control state government. The third man, Cuomo, promised sweeping changes to New York’s anti-corruption laws after Silver’s and Skelos’ convictions. But the Republican-led Senate and Democratic Assembly are deadlocked on proposed reforms.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has been vocal in his support for anti-corruption reforms including term limits for leadership positions.
“The corruption prosecution of Sheldon Silver has ended,” said Kolb who heads the Assembly’s Republicans. “But the corruption problem in Albany still remains.”
By Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister. AP writers Jennifer Peltz in New York and David Klepper in Albany, New York, contributed