New York|Sheldon Silver, Disgraced Assembly Speaker, Is Sent Back to Prison
Sheldon Silver, who dominated New York State politics for years as the Democratic Assembly speaker before being convicted on federal corruption charges, was ordered back to prison on Thursday, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the matter.
Mr. Silver, 77, was in federal custody at a Lower Manhattan hospital on Thursday afternoon and was expected to be returned to the prison in Otisville, N.Y., later in the day, one of the officials said.
The move came just two days after prison officials let Mr. Silver return home on a furlough while he awaited a decision on his request that he be allowed to serve the balance of his prison term under home confinement. At that point, he had served less than a year of his six-and-a-half-year sentence.
That Mr. Silver was going back to prison so quickly suggested that his request had been denied, but a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on any aspect of his status.
“For privacy, safety and security reasons, we do not discuss an inmate’s condition of confinement or release plans,” the spokeswoman said. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, prison officials have leeway in determining which prisoners are allowed to be placed on home confinement.
But one of the law enforcement officials with knowledge of the matter said that the decision on whether Mr. Silver could complete his sentence under home confinement or some other form of so-called supervised release had indeed gone against him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Mr. Silver, who was first elected to the State Assembly in 1976 and became speaker in 1994, could not be reached for comment. James P. Loonam, a lawyer for Mr. Silver, declined to comment.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which prosecuted the case against Mr. Silver, also declined to comment. The office had conveyed its strong opposition to Mr. Silver’s possible release to prison officials.
Mr. Silver’s release from prison, followed by his quick return, were just the latest twists in his long-running fight to keep from being incarcerated.
He was initially sentenced to 14 years in prison after a federal jury found him guilty in 2015 of accepting nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for using his position to help benefit a cancer researcher and two real estate developers.
The conviction was overturned on appeal two years later, after the Supreme Court vacated a political corruption conviction in Virginia and narrowed the legal definition of corruption.
Mr. Silver was retried in 2018, convicted again and sentenced to seven years in prison. In 2019, an appeals court overturned one portion of his conviction, while upholding another. (In January, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, allowing the conviction to stand.) He finally entered the Otisville prison in August of last year.
At the time of Mr. Silver’s sentencing last summer, his lawyers, citing his history of cancer and chronic kidney disease, asked that he be allowed to avoid prison and serve a term of home confinement. They argued that imprisonment would increase his chances of becoming ill or dying from the coronavirus.
“Your honor, I do not want to die in prison,” Mr. Silver wrote to the judge overseeing the case, Valerie E. Caproni of Federal District Court in Manhattan.
But Judge Caproni, saying Mr. Silver was guilty of “corruption, pure and simple,” said a “nonjail sentence is simply not appropriate.”
And when Mr. Silver’s lawyer asked that his client be allowed to delay his surrender date to prison, Judge Caproni refused.
“Mr. Silver, his time has come,” she said. “He needs to go to jail.”
Benjamin Weiser contributed reporting.