ALBANY – Sheldon Silver should face “significant” prison time for his abuse of the public trust while he was speaker of the Assembly, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wrote in presentencing papers filed Wednesday with a federal judge in Manhattan.
Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, ask the judge to impose a prison term “substantially in excess” of 10 years, require Silver to give up nearly $5.2 million in “crime proceeds” and pay a $1 million fine. In his filing, he said the severity of Silver’s crimes should send him to prison for more than 14 years.
“Silver’s crimes corrupted the institution that he led for more than 20 years,” Bharara wrote of the Manhattan Democrat who became Assembly speaker in 1994 and resigned in February 2015 amid federal corruption charges.
“As a fixture in the legislative leadership, an entire generation of New York legislators served in an institution framed by his corrupt example.”
Bharara said Silver should be sentenced for longer than any other state lawmaker convicted of corruption – 14 years in the case of a former Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn – because of the “immeasurable harm he has caused to the public trust and the need to deter other public officials who might consider abusing their power for personal gain.”
Silver was convicted in December of using his post to help make himself a millionaire. His sentencing is set for May 3.
In a personal letter to Judge Valerie E. Caproni, Silver wrote: “I failed the people of New York.” He asked the judge to consider the “good things” he has done in his life.
In a separate filing, lawyers for Silver submitted letters of support for him and outlined his involvement in everything from housing programs to post-9/11 rebuilding efforts in Manhattan to the state’s response to Superstorm Sandy. They also said Silver was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The Silver filing slammed a recently unsealed document filed by prosecutors alleging that Silver had two extramarital affairs, one with a lobbyist with business before the state and another with a woman who Silver helped get a state job, according to prosecutors. Silver’s lawyers called the allegation “unproven … (and) scandalous.”
“Mr. Silver has demonstrated a capacity to do a tremendous amount of good for the public,” Silver’s lawyers wrote to the judge. They added: “In fashioning a sentence, we ask that this court consider allowing Mr. Silver to continue to employ his unique talents to benefit others. A sentence that incorporates extensive community service and little – if any – incarceration – could do that.”