ALBANY – Sheldon Silver, the onetime power broker at the State Capitol during his years as Assembly speaker, was released from a federal prison Tuesday after serving 10% of his 78-month sentence on his corruption conviction.
The release was first reported by Yeshiva World News, which Tuesday morning said the 77-year-old Silver was heading to his Manhattan apartment to serve under home confinement under a special Covid-19-era rule that permits some inmates to be let out of prison.
Silver’s lawyers in 2020 unsuccessfully argued before a federal judge that Silver should not go to prison out of fear that his age and health made him more susceptible to contracting a serious case of Covid-19.
The Associated Press on Tuesday afternoon, attributing the information to an unnamed source, said Silver was released Tuesday as he now awaits a formal home confinement request.
It is uncertain if Silver could be out temporarily from prison or if he could serve the remainder of his sentence at home.
A federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman, in an email, said that Silver is still “designated” to the federal prison in Otisville with a projected release date of March 10, 2026.
“However, we can share that the Bureau of Prisons has authority to transfer inmates to their home on furlough for periods of time while they may continue to be considered for home confinement designation" or to a community-based residential confinement facility, the spokesman said.
The federal U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District in Manhattan, which prosecuted Silver, confirmed Tuesday that the federal prison agency did reach out to prosecutors for a position on a potential prison release by Silver.
“We communicated to them yesterday that we oppose his release," said James Margolin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney.
Silver’s status on a federal inmate locator page run by the prisons bureau listed the former Assembly Democratic leader as being still located at Otisville. The prison is also home to Joseph Percoco, a former top adviser to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo; Percoco is not expected to be released until 2024 following his own, separate corruption and bribery case.
Silver’s corruption case was a long one, as he managed to remain out of prison – while he had some success with initial appeals – for more than five years after his first conviction. Silver’s lawyer at the time, James Loonam, did not return a call or email Tuesday.
Silver’s original 2015 conviction, in part, found him guilty of accepting $4 million in payments to his law firm as part of an alleged conspiracy with a cancer researcher. That conviction, and its 12-year prison sentence, was overturned on appeal and Silver was retried.
An appeals court also later tossed out the second conviction related to the cancer researcher scheme, but kept intact convictions on an illicit real estate deal and money laundering. He went to prison Aug. 26 with a 78-month sentence.
The U.S. Supreme Court in January turned down a request by Silver to consider his case.
The Yeshiva World News reported Tuesday that “much credit” can be given for Silver’s release to Rabbi Moshe Margaretten of the Tzedek Association, a Jewish nonprofit organization involved in prison issues. Margaretten and Silver are both Orthodox Jews.
Silver, in his two decades as one of the three most powerful people in Albany, shaped billions in state budgets, served as political kingmaker – or breaker – for many Democratic politicians and negotiated top policy matters with five governors.