Sheldon Silver, the definition of Albany power spanning two decades, this afternoon was sentenced to 12 years in prison for tapping into his extraordinary influence over state government to personally enrich himself.
He also was ordered to forfeit $5,179,106.12 from proceeds from his crimes, according to tweets from Newsday in the courtroom, and was fined an additional $1.75 million.
Silver, 72, will surrender July 1.
“I’ve let down my constituents, family and colleagues,” Silver said before his sentencing, according to tweets from the New York Times, “and I’m truly, truly sorry for that.”
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni seemed to agree, saying: “The letters clearly and persuasively paint a picture of a talented politician who went above and beyond the call of duty.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said on Twitter just after the sentencing: “Today’s stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver’s long career of corruption.”
In urging a significant sentence, one of the federal prosecutors, according to media accounts, summed up Silver’s actions: “Just pure greed.’’
Silver’s defense attorney asked for community service and house arrest for the seven-count corruption conviction.
“He won’t weather this storm. Whatever leniency your honor will seek to give him. ... He is already crushed. He has been devastated,” his defense attorney said.
Under federal guidelines, the sentence could have been between 21 and 27 years, but the judge said she would not follow the guidelines, according to Newsday tweets.
“I am not going to impose a guidelines sentence in this case,” Caproni said, adding it would be “draconian and unjust” given Silver’s age.
In the ever-surreal world of Albany, Silver’s former colleagues in the Assembly, at the same moment Silver was seated in a courtroom awaiting his sentencing, officially seated his replacement, Alice Cancel. On April 19, Cancel won a special election victory to represent the lower Manhattan district Silver was first elected to represent in 1976.
It will be a busy month for the district court. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, is set to be sentenced May 12 in his own separate corruption case.
The sentencing comes as a new poll out this morning finds 93 percent of New Yorkers believe corruption in Albany is a serious problem. And the poll by Siena College was conducted before the issuance of a subpoena to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office as part of a widening probe that began last year of the Buffalo Billion program.
Bharara, who prosecuted both Silver and Skelos, last month asked the judge to impose “significant” prison time for the former Assembly leader. He said Silver’s crimes, which personally enriched Silver, are worth at least 14 years in prison and that he should be required to give up nearly $5.2 million in his “crime proceeds.”
“Silver’s crimes corrupted the institution that he led for more than 20 years,” Bharara wrote in a pre-sentencing court filing last month. Papers filed by Bharara also were unsealed last month in which prosecutors accused Silver of having two extramarital affairs,