Former NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gets 7 years in prison for public corruption

NEW YORK -- Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been sentenced to seven years in prison for public corruption, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni announced Friday at a court in Manhattan.

Silver was once among Albany's most powerful Democrats until he was felled by a corruption scandal.

He was initially found guilty in 2015 of pocketing $4 million illegally by collecting fees from a cancer researcher and real estate developer.

His conviction and 12-year prison sentence were thrown out by an appeals court, but the 74-year-old fared no better at a second trial in May.

In a pre-sentence submission, Silver said he was filled with shame and feared he would die in prison.

The gray-haired, bespectacled Silver was first elected in 1976 and served as speaker for 21 years, becoming the classic Albany insider with the power to control bills and state spending singlehandedly in behind-the-scenes negotiations. Known for his often inscrutable comments and wary, phlegmatic demeanor, Silver gained the nickname "the Sphinx.”

The sentencing comes 10 days after Dean Skelos, the former New York Senate leader, and his son, Adam, were convicted of extortion, wire fraud and bribery at a retrial for each of them.

The once-powerful Republican and his son also were granted a new trial after the Supreme Court narrowed public corruption law as it reversed the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Silver and Skelos were among a trio dubbed the "three men in a room" in Albany, a nod to the longstanding practice of legislative leaders and the governor negotiating key bills behind closed doors. Skelos served in the Senate from 1985 to 2015 and became Senate leader in 2008.

Over 30 New York state lawmakers have left office under a cloud of criminal or ethical allegations since 2000. More than a dozen have been convicted of charges including authorizing bribes to get on a ballot, diverting money meant for community programs into a campaign and skimming funds from contributions to a Little League baseball program.