Sheldon Silver, former New York Assembly Speaker, knows the legal system very well. But this week he became intimately familiar with an aspect of the law that was previously only an abstraction to him -- federal criminal sentencing statutes.
Silver, who was just one of many local politicians caught up in an anti-corruption sweep by the local US Attorney General for the Southern District of New York, was hit hard. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption and, reports The New York Times, the judge seemed particularly perturbed by Silver's determination to do wrong.
The son of a hardware store owner on the Lower East Side, Silver rose to the top of state politics, only to fall very hard after a very long and respected career. Silver was convicted on November 30 of last year on multiple charges, including honest service fraud, money laundering, and extortion. He traded money for favors and referrals for favors, among other activities, including accepting bribes.
The verdict did not take long to reach -- two hours -- and Silver was forced to relinquish his Assembly seat shortly thereafter. But he was very clearly not alone in choosing the dark side -- his replacement, for example, was charged with corruption only two weeks after taking Silver's seat. But because he had been around so long and was so highly respected, prosecutors were intent on punishing Silver in particular, according to The New York Times.
Even the judge in this matter seemed intent on letting Silver know just how disappointing and audacious his behavior was. Judge Valerie E. Caproni of Federal District Court in Manhattan reportedly pointed out at sentencing that even before his arrest, when some of his fellow legislators had been arrested on corruption charges, Silver remained undeterred. "One would think that the image of Mr. Silver's colleagues being arrested and led off to jail would have caused someone who was basically honest to reappraise what was going on," Judge Caproni said. The judge also pointed out that Silver had betrayed the public and contributed to cynicism about politics and power.
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