Silver Gets Sentenced
If you follow Jews in politics, you probably already know that former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat from the Lower East Side, was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for two schemes of fraud and corruption-related crimes, in which he accrued a total of over $4 million while in office.
He was ordered to pay back $1.2 million before Friday, September 21, which, coincidentally, is one day after Yom Kippur. He gets to keep his pension but must make installments of $5,846 a month to pay his debt to society. A final determination of how much Silver must pay will be made within the next month.
When U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni handed down the sentence at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse, just a couple of miles away from Silver’s home, she said Silver would have to turn himself in to authorities on Monday, October 1. (Until then, he is free on $200,000 bail.)
Silver’s attorney, Michael Feldberg, was unaware that the first of October this year is a yom tov, Shemini Atzeret, so Silver’s son-in-law brought it to Feldberg’s attention who, in turn, informed the judge. Caproni then exclaimed, “Rabbi, I swear I checked my calendar and Sukkos was not on the calendar. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I really did try to avoid all the religious holidays.”
Caproni was referring to 89-year old Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, rosh yeshiva of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem. Feinstein had addressed the court pleading for leniency for Silver, his longtime friend.
Caproni moved the date to Friday, October 5, for Silver to turn himself in. Silver, for his part, said he is planning to appeal his conviction and sentencing in an effort to stay out of prison for as long as possible. While Caproni contends a quid pro quo was clearly established, Feldberg argues the prosecution failed to prove Silver promised anything in return for the referrals he received. Caproni noted that she saw no sufficient evidence for an appeal and that “nothing warrants a new trial.”
Silver addressed the court, saying he spent his life working for the good of the people, but Caproni described him as a master of deception.
Silver also told Caproni, “I am a broken man and brought shame to my office. I am the subject of public humiliation and fodder for ridicule. The disgrace will never go away. The events that are outlined in these trials have brought a great distrust in New York government. I am extremely, extremely remorseful for that. Going forward, I fear that I will continue to be ridiculed, shamed by the stain that is upon me.”
Silver also lamented that he would not be able share in life cycle events for his children and grandchildren, including weddings, bar mitzvahs, and bat mitzvahs.
None of that seemed to have affected Caproni. As for alternatives to incarceration, such as community service, Caproni rejected the notion.
The judge then handed down the seven-year sentence, remarking that a sentence should be sufficient but not excessive. The 12-year sentence that Silver, then 71 years old, received previously was excessive, said Caproni. Now 74 years old, Silver is still set to be behind bars as an octogenarian.
Silver requested to be incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, Orange County, where other Jewish convicts have resided – including business owner Sholom Rubashkin and former state Senator Carl Kruger, who is set to be released on August 5. Approximately 100 Jewish inmates currently reside at Otisville. The prison has services for religious Jewish inmates and holds sedarim in the prison cafeteria.
Otisville is a medium-security federal prison for male inmates operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. It is 80 miles north of Silver’s Grand Street apartment and 25 miles south of his summer home in Sullivan County. The Bureau of Prisons will decide by October whether to grant Silver’s request.
One auspicious note: Barring any delays, Silver’s entry into prison life will begin with the reading of the first section of the Torah, Bereishit.