By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday by a federal judge in Manhattan after he was convicted for the second time of corruption charges in May.
The sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, was less than the 12 years he received after his first conviction in 2015. The earlier conviction was overturned on appeal, leading to a second trial
Caproni said that her sentence after the first trial had been too harsh, and that Silver, now 74, did not deserve to spend what could be the rest of his life behind bars.
However, the judge said it was important to punish public corruption, noting that Silver was one of a series of officials convicted in recent corruption trials. She said a proposal by Silver’s lawyer, Michael Feldberg, to impose “rigorous community service” would not be appropriate.
Before being sentenced, Silver said in court that his case had caused “great distrust” in New York’s government, for which he felt “extremely remorseful.”
“I spent my life believing in government,” he said.
Silver was found guilty of directing state money to a prominent cancer researcher and supporting a real estate developer’s interests on rent legislation in exchange for about $4 million in bribes and kickbacks.
A Democrat, Silver represented Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the state Assembly, and was Assembly speaker from 1994 to 2015.
New York State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, and his son Adam were also charged and convicted of corruption in December 2015, but their convictions were overturned for similar reasons as Silver’s. They were tried again and found guilty earlier this month.
Others charged with corruption in federal court in Manhattan in recent years include Joseph Percoco, a former aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Alain Kaloyeros, a former president of the State University of New York’s Polytechnic Institute. Percoco was convicted in March, and Kaloyeros was convicted earlier this month.
“Corruption cases have touched, either directly or indirectly, all of the infamous ‘three men in a room,'” Caproni said at Friday’s sentencing hearing, quoting a phrase used to describe the power of New York’s governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader to dictate the state’s legislative priorities.
“This has to stop,” she said. “New York state has to do something institutionally.”
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)