A few weeks before his sentencing date, Sheldon Silver wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, who presided over the former Assembly speaker’s five-week jury trial last fall. Gone were the professions of innocence that Mr. Silver stuck to before and during the trial.
Instead, Mr. Silver—who ranked among the state’s most powerful politicians for some two decades—admitted that he had “failed the people of New York.” He added that his actions “hurt the Assembly, and New York and my constituents terribly, and I regret that more than I can possibly express.”
Yet he also asked the judge to consider “what I’d like to think is a lifetime of hard work and many good deeds.”
Judge Caproni received similar letters from Mr. Silver’s wife, his children and others who have known him during his career as a state lawmaker. Calling him a “great father, and grandfather,” and noting that he has been diagnosed with the same kind of cancer that took the lives of his father and brother, Mrs. Silver implored the judge to give her husband “as lenient a sentence as possible.”
On Tuesday, the judge delivered Mr. Silver’s sentence. She acknowledged his accomplishments as a public servant. But in the end, she rejected his lawyers’ requests for a sentence of community service and gave him 12 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine. He also was ordered to forfeit $5.3 million in unlawful gains from bribes, kickbacks and money laundering.
Whether Judge Caproni was too harsh—she said Mr. Silver had done “incalculable harm” to the people of this state—depends on one’s perspective. In our view, the sentence was warranted by Mr. Silver’s arrogant and repeated abuse of his power.
It also seems necessary as a deterrent. In Albany, there has been much talk about getting tough on corruption, but little action.
In the next few weeks, two other convicted former legislative leaders—Dean Skelos and John Sampson—also will be sentenced. This presents an opportunity to reinforce the message that business as usual no longer works in Albany.
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