Sheldon Silver

Silver Sentenced To 7 Years

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Friday was sentenced to seven years in prison after he was found guilty for a second time on charges of bribery and fraud.

Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan, had previously been sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was found guilty in his first trial on charges of pocketing referral fees at his law firm while also arranging official state actions for a doctor, Robert Taub.

That conviction, however, was overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court re-interpreted public corruption statutes. He was retried again this year on more narrow charges and found guilty.

Silver’s attorneys had sought virtually no prison time for the once powerful speaker, instead asking U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni to sentence him to community service work and to keep some of the money he received in the referrals.

Silver wielded virtually unquestioned power as the leader of the Assembly for a generation, helping craft state budgets with four governors and multiple majority leaders in the state Senate. He resigned after his indictment in 2015 and was formally booted from the Assembly after the first conviction.

“When he assumed his powerful position at the top of New York State government, Sheldon Silver took an oath to do the work of the people,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “Instead, he leveraged his tremendous influence to pad his bank account and line his pockets. Sheldon Silver has been given a lengthy sentence of seven years in federal prison. We hope today’s fittingly stiff sentence sends a clear message: brokering official favors for your personal benefit is illegal and will result in prison time.”

It has been a year of corruption charges highlighting the unseemly actions of state government officials.

Silver’s former partner in government, ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was previously found guilty this month in a second trial of his own for arranging for his son to receive a job.

And a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joe Percoco, was found guilty earlier this year in connection to bribery charges related to economic development projects. In a case cleaved from the Percoco trial, prominent upstate developers and former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros were found guilty of rigging lucrative state contracts.

Assemblyman Kearns: ‘Sometimes Our Criminal Justice System Doesn’t Work’

Western New York Assemblyman Mickey Kearns had a cynical take on the news that a federal appeals court overturned the corruption conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“We know that there was corruption. We know that Mr. Silver monetized his office for self gain. We know that he protected and harbored sex offenders in the legislature. We know all those. Those are facts,” Kearns said. “I think it shows that sometimes our criminal justice system doesn’t work.”

Kearns was one of the more vocal critics during Silver’s last few years as Speaker and left the Democratic Conference to protest the handling of the Vito Lopez scandal. The Buffalo Democrat didn’t caucus with his party again until Silver stepped down in 2015.

“I know there is going to be a retry of the case,” he said. “I’m going to advocate that. I’m going to personally reach out to them to have them retry Mr. Silver.”

While he said he’s disappointed, the assemblyman quickly pointed to a silver lining from Silver’s high-profile corruption case. He said it put an increased focus on ethics reform in Albany and led to the legislature’s approval of a pension reform.

The constitutional amendment still needs approval from the general public.

“The voters are going to have an opportunity to hold public officials accountable that breach the public trust and you’ll be able to vote in a referendum to strip corrupt politicians of their pensions,” he said. “That will be on the ballot this November, so that’s a positive thing that came from this.”

Meanwhile, Kearns said the decision today is a reminder more ethics reform is needed.


Silver Could Remain Free Until At Least Oct. 27

Disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will remain free until at least Oct. 27 as he seeks bail pending appeal of his November 2015 conviction on corruption charges.

Federal Judge Valerie Caproni on Thursday ruled that Silver, due to report to prison on Aug. 31, will have two weeks to start paying fines and other forfeiture fines as part of his conviction and later report to prison should his motion for bail be denied.

If Silver is to appeal that decision, the date he must report to prison is moved back another 14 days from when that court rules, or Oct. 27, whichever is later.

Silver in may was sentenced to 12 years in and prison and owes nearly $7 million in civil penalties stemming from his conviction late last year on corruption, fraud and self-dealing charges.

Initially scheduled to report to prison on July 1, Silver’s appeal has gained some ground in recent weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell that narrowed the definition of an official quid pro quo in public corruption cases.

That same decision is also at the heart of the appeal of Silver’s former colleague, ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who is also appealing his conviction from earlier this year. Both Skelos and his son Adam are free pending their appeal.

Kearns Calls Silver Sentence ‘Fair And Just’

Since joining the Assembly in 2012, Mickey Kearns, D-Buffalo, has been one of Sheldon Silver’s most vocal critics. In 2013, he left the Democratic conference in protest to how the house speaker handled the Vito Lopez case.

“It was a very difficult decision but I knew it was something I had to do,” Kearns said.

He didn’t start caucusing with the Democrats again until last year, when Silver stepped down as Assembly Speaker. Tuesday, Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison for public corruption charges.

“I don’t personalize things. I think it was fair and just,” Kearns said.

Just as interesting to Kearns as the unprecedented length of the sentence, was the $1.75 million fine the judge imposed on the former speaker.

“I believe part of the reason for that is he’ll be collecting his pension in prison,” he said.

Kearns believes the judge made a statement but he said the Assembly needs to as well. He’s calling on his colleagues to pass a bill that would forfeit legislators state pensions if they’re convicted of a felony.

Silver Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison

Democratic former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday was sentenced to 12 years in prison for masking millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks as legal fees and pay $5.1 million in forfeiture funds.

Federal prosecutors had sought more than 14 years for Silver, a record for an ex-elected official in New York. The current record holder, former Assemblyman Will Boyland, was convicted of bribery and is serving 14 years in prison.

He will also have to pay a $1.75 million fine.

He is scheduled to report on July 1.

“Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

But U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni declined to follow sentencing guidelines in Silver’s case, declaring it would be “Draconian and unjust” considering his age and health. Silver, 72, revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer as he awaited sentencing.

Had Caproni followed those guidelines, Silver would have been sentenced to up to 27 years in prison.

As Silver awaited to be sentenced, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office successfully unsealed documents that alleged the former lawmaker had conducted extramarital affairs with two women, one a former member of the Assembly and a lobbyist, both of whom were accused of benefiting from their personal relationship with Silver.

Silver, the once powerful and unquestioned leader of the state Assembly since 1994, was found guilty in November of fraud and extortion, forcing him to surrender his seat in the Assembly in the process.

As Silver was being sentenced at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, his successor and winner of a special election last month, Alice Cancel, was sworn in to replace him in the Assembly. Cancel has ties to Silver’s political allies in the Assembly district and defeated Yuh-Line Niou, who ran on the Working Families Party line.

Silver’s downfall last year was followed by an unprecedented moment in state politics in which his counter part, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, was also later felled by a corruption scandal involving securing business for his son through official actions.

Skelos is due to be sentenced later this month.

In Letter, Silver Apologizes To Court

A contrite Sheldon Silver in a letter filed in federal court this week apologized as he is scheduled to be sentenced next month in his federal corruption conviction.

Silver, the ex-Assembly speaker and formerly one of the most powerful elected officials in New York, was convicted in November of fraud and extortion charges.

As federal prosecutors seek a record stretch in prison for any former elected official of more than 14 years in prison for the 72-year-old Silver, the Manhattan Democrat in a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni urged leniency and asked her to keep in mind the good public acts he has done.

“I failed the people of New York,” Silver wrote in the letter. “There is no question about it.”

Silver also took responsibility for the poor image voters and the general public has of state government because of him.

“Because of me, the government has been ridiculed,” he said.

“As I will continue to do every day, I apologize to the Court, the people of the State of New York (particularly my constituents and former colleagues), and most of all my loving family that has stood besides me always.”

Silver Letter by Nick Reisman

Prosecutors Seek More Than A Decade For Silver

Federal prosecutors are calling for ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to be sentenced to time in prison longer than any other political figure in recent history.

Court filings by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office made public on Wednesday called for Silver to be sentenced “substantially in excess” of 10 years in prison.

“Silver exploited the vast political power entrusted in him by the public to serve himself,” the sentencing memorandum from prosecutors reads. “He preyed on others’ dependence on him for favorable official action, and used the cover of his law license to secretly steer to himself millions of dollars worth of business that he knew nothing about and could not (and did not) perform, in exchange for official action that only he could provide. There is no excuse or mitigating factor tempering the seriousness of Silver’s crimes, which were motivated by greed and accomplished through exploitation of his enormous power and his willingness to lie and deceive at every turn.”

Silver was found guilty in November of using his office to secure bribes that he masked legal referrals and was ultimately convicted on fraud and extortion charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 3.

Silver turned 72 in February.

The longtime speaker of the Assembly, Silver was removed from the post after his arrest on corruption charges, but remained in the chamber pending the outcome of his trial. The guilty verdict on felony corruption charges triggered his removal from office.

In the sentencing memo, the prosecutors argue Silver’s crimes show there is a need to, in essence, make an example out of him.

“Silver’s conduct here provides a powerful reminder of the dire need for greater deterrence,” he said. “Silver persisted in corrupting his official position even after he watched numerous of his legislative colleagues brought down by criminal charges.”

Along with the memo, prosecutors filed a chart showing various elected officials and other figures from New York and elsewhere who have been convicted of corruption and the time they were sentenced to. Assemblyman William Boyland currently holds the record, serving 14 years.

In addition to the long prison sentence, prosecutors want Silver to pay a $5.1 million forfeiture penalty — termed “crime proceeds” — as well as a $1 million fine.

Silver’s defense counsel called for the forfeiture penalty to be “reduced by the amount of taxes Mr. Silver paid on his allegedly unlawful gains as described above.”

Govt Sentencing 4-20 Silver by Nick Reisman

Silver memo 4-20-1 by Nick Reisman

Former Speaker Silver Disbarred

Less than a month before he is sentenced following his November corruption conviction, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been disbarred, court filings released Tuesday show.

Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, was found guilty late last year of fraud and extortion after he was accused of masking bribes as legal referrals in exchange for official actions he took as the top lawmaker in the state Assembly.

Silver’s extortion conviction automatically triggers disbarment, a five-judge panel determined in a ruling.

Silver had initially sought to delay the disbarment proceedings pending judgment acquittal and efforts to obtain a new trial, but was denied.

Silver is scheduled to be sentenced on April 13.

Republican former Senate Majority Dean Skelos, who was convicted in a separate corruption trial in December, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25.

The Real Reason There May Be No Special Election on April 19

Vacancies, vacancies, vacancies. Every year it feels like there are a bunch of open seats in the Legislature, and so begins the long dance over when (or if) to call a special election. This year there are two quite notable open seats: Those once held by Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver.

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that he would call a special election on April 19, which would line up local races with New York’s presidential primary. He hasn’t officially done so yet, and he has until early February to make a final decision. That gives the governor some leeway, although not a ton.

Some had suggested that Democrats on Long Island had asked him to hold off. They have selected Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky as their candidate to run for the Skelos seat, and as Jimmy Vielkind astutely pointed out, Democrats have fretted that a fluid national Republican Primary could boost Republican turnout on Strong Island.

But here is another reason I was recently told April may not work. According to a source, the New York City Board of Elections simply cannot handle it. Apparently, there are separate computer programs for local races and national races, and holding them simultaneously that day would be too much for the board. I mean, let’s face it, competence was never their strong suit. Silver’s seat is in lower Manhattan, so the NYC Board would be in charge of holding the election for the Silver seat that day.

That leaves two other possibilities.

1) Cuomo could call the special to line up with that new, weird congressional primary day that takes place in June. June 28th is the day this year.

2) Cuomo could push it to Sept. 7th, which is the day of the state primaries. Whichever date is picked will greatly affect the race for Silver’s seat. Yesterday, Manhattan Democratic leaders had been scheduled to meet to discuss who they might endorse for the seat, but the meeting was cancelled due to all the uncertainty surrounding the date of the election. If the April 19 date were to work, then the local Democratic committee in the financial district would choose who gets the seat. In that case, New York County leaders would likely get involved.

Full disclosure before I go any further: I actually live in Lower Manhattan so this race is my district. So, not only did I have the privilege of covering Shelly Silver, he was also my assemblyman, and I should say that I found him very responsive to my constituent needs. (I’m just kidding about the last part).

So far there are at least three candidates who are looking to run for the seat – Jenifer Rajkumar, a Democratic district leader; Paul Newell, who is also a Democratic district leader and has the distinction of losing to Silver in a 2008 primary – the first the then-speaker had faced in two decades; and Yuh-Line Niou who is chief of staff to Assemblyman Ron Kim.

According to one insider, Rajkumar and Newell seem to be splitting the vote, since they are trying to lock up committee support from the same committee they both represent as district leaders. Also, some Chinatown leaders don’t like Rajkumar because she ran against NYC Councilwoman Margaret Chin. Niou seems to be getting much of that critical Chinatown political support, even though she doesn’t live there. She actually lives in a more fancy shmancy part of the district further downtown.

If the election is held in June, it will also be a committee selection, but if it’s pushed to September there would be an open primary. There will actually be a primary regardless, so even if a candidate is chosen, he or she would still potentially have to fight off challengers in September. Obviously, if someone is already sitting in that seat they have the advantages of incumbency going into that primary. So, now it really comes down to which date will be selected.

ted knight

Damage Control (Updated)

An astute reader forwarded this photo of a full-page ad that appeared in today’s New York Times, courtesy of Weitz & Luxenberg.


That’s the Manhattan law firm perhaps best known (in political circles, anyway) for its key role in the corruption scandal of now former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and in legal circles for representing clients suffering from mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer.

Weitz & Luxenberg, as you’ll recall, for many years employed Silver on an “of counsel” basis – a situation that basically consisted of him acting like a rainmaker for the firm, directing clients there and never actually practicing any law on their behalf.

Central to US Attorney Preet Bharara’s successful case against Silver was a bribery scheme in which the former speaker directed state grants to a Columbia University oncologist who specialized in mesothelioma research in exchange for the doctor directing his patients to Weitz & Luxenberg, netting Silver lucrative legal fees.

Silver did report his outside income from Weitz & Luxenberg, though it was never completely clear exactly how much he earned from the firm and what – if anything – he actually did there. The firm severed ties with the former assemblyman after he was arrested on corruption charges by Bharara.

According to the New York Post, Weitz & Luxenberg has seen a significant drop in new cases since Silver’s arrest last January. Citing court records, the paper reported that the firm has filed only 218 lawsuits in Manhattan Supreme Court’s New York City Asbestos Litigation division this year, compared with 262 in 2014. It also marked only 70 cases as “ready for trial” in 2015, compared with 128 in 2014 and 158 in 2013.

UPDATE: To be clear, Bharara’s complaint against Silver did not allege any wrongdoing by Weitz & Luxenberg, and the subsequent trial revealed that the firm had no knowledge of the former assemblyman’s illegal doings, nor was it complicit in them.