Sheldon Silver, a Democratic power broker in New York City who was convicted of pocketing $4.5 million while he served as Speaker of the State Assembly, has died at 77 years old.
Sheldon Silver, a New York power broker and State Assemblyman who was widely considered the most powerful man in Albany for decades, has died after serving three years of an eight-year prison sentence.
Sheldon Silver, the former New York Assembly Speaker who was one of the most prominent characters in state government for two decades until being convicted of corruption, died in federal jail. He was 77 years old at the time.
Mr. Silver died on Monday, according to a source close to the situation. The individual was unable to speak publicly about the situation and talked to AP on the condition of anonymity.
The Manhattan Democrat had been serving a more than six-year term in federal prison after telling a court that he hoped he wouldn’t die in jail.
He was found guilty of abusing his position in state government to assist real estate developers, who rewarded him with lucrative business referrals to his legal company.
His supporters claim he was lately in poor condition and at risk of developing Covid-19. In May, he was furloughed for a few days before being refused house detention by federal officials.
Mr. Silver’s conviction brought an end to a nearly four-decade legislative career. In 1976, he was elected to represent Manhattan’s Lower East Side for the first time. He was a superb practitioner of Albany’s inner game, despite cutting a low-key figure in the hallways of the state Capitol, meticulously parsing out statements in a baritone murmur.
In 1994, he was elected Speaker of the Assembly, a strong post that placed him on an equal footing with the governor and state Senate leader when it came to making important choices concerning yearly budgets and significant legislation.
Mr. Silver served as speaker for five different governors in New York, from Mario Cuomo through Andrew Cuomo.
Sheldon Silver, the Speaker of the Assembly, speaks during a news conference in Albany in 2003.
Tim Roske/ASSOCIATED PRESS photo
After surviving a coup attempt early in his term, he honed his horse-trading skills to achieve school funding, tenants rights legislation, and other Assembly Democrats-favored initiatives. Mr. Silver, an Orthodox Jew, was notorious for keeping the Sabbath even during the marathon negotiations that preceded yearly budget deadlines and legislative sessions.
He eventually became a symbol of Albany’s much-maligned opaque governing style and, as a result, a target of federal prosecutors.
Mr. Silver was charged by prosecutors of exchanging his power for money. They said that he convinced a physician to bring asbestos cancer patients to his legal company so that it could pursue multimillion-dollar payouts from personal-injury cases, a scheme that netted him roughly $3 million in referral fees. Prosecutors claim he sent hundreds of thousands of dollars in state subsidies to the doctor’s research institute in exchange.
Mr. Silver’s lawyer contended that his client was entitled to be compensated for work done on the side.
After a U.S. Supreme Court judgment that limited the definition of a corrupt conduct, his initial 2015 conviction was overturned by an appeals court. In 2018, he was found guilty in a second trial that was somewhat modified to comply with the high court verdict.
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However, an appeals court overturned the asbestos cancer sufferers’ convictions, citing a jury instruction that was incorrect. Prosecutors chose not to bring the accusation against him again. The court determined that he had backed legislation that benefitted real-estate developers who were sending tax business to a legal company that hired him in the section of his conviction that lasted.
Following his arrest in January 2015, Mr. Silver resigned from his leadership role and lost his parliamentary seat when he was convicted for the first time in November of that year.
Mr. Silver was the youngest of four Russian immigrants’ children. His father owned and operated a wholesale hardware business. He and his wife had four children as adults and resided in a lower Manhattan apartment a few steps from his childhood home.
He graduated from Yeshiva University with a bachelor’s degree and Brooklyn Law School with a law degree.
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