BY MARY REINHOLZ | Unless Sheldon Silver’s sentencing judge changes her mind at the last minute (or he performs a Houdini-like disappearing act), the once-powerful New York State Assembly speaker will likely report as scheduled to the Bureau of Prisons tomorrow, Aug. 26, to get assigned a jail and begin serving a six-and-one-half-year sentence for public corruption.
Silver could get other charges hurled at him if he makes good on his alleged threats to punch a New York Post photographer for snapping pictures of him last night.
U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni has already sentenced Silver, 76, three times, twice after he appealed the 12 years she first handed down in 2016 for pocketing nearly $4 million in hefty referral fees from two Manhattan law firms for whom he had served as an outside counsel for years, sometimes obtaining favorable deals and legislation for clients.
Silver has been convicted twice in jury trials. Several charges were thrown out by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In Caproni’s third sentencing of Silver, a lifelong Lower East Side resident, she ignored his lawyer’s claims that Silver could die in prison because of his age and multiple health problems, both of which make him vulnerable for contracting the coronavirus. Caproni, however, claimed the prison system was managing COVID-19 and she wanted a sentence for Silver “long enough to send a message to Albany.
As customary, the Bureau of Prisons has not yet designated the jail where Silver will land. He is still free on bail.
“Sheldon Silver is not in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Per B.O.P. policy, we do not provide information on the date or location that an individual may report to B.O.P.,” said Justin Long, a spokesperson for the federal agency. Once Silver is behind bars, interested parties can search for him name or his register number in the federal agency’s inmate locator.
Meir Feder, one of Silver’s lawyers at Jones Day, has not responded to calls for comment.
“I presume he’ll go to a joint where they send religious kosher Jewish prisoners to,” said retired New York State Justice Emily Jane Goodman. Asked whether Silver’s lawyers may have worked out a recent deal with Caproni to spare the ailing ex-pol time in the slammer, Goodman said she hadn’t heard anything.
“But ordinarily B.O.P. needs approval from the sentencing judge,” she said. “And if she cared about [Silver’s] health situation, she would have taken that into consideration when she sentenced him, I think.”
Goodman noted that other high-profile prisoners, like Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, had been released from prison over concerns that he might get infected by the coronavirus spreading among inmates.
Famed criminal defense lawyer Murray Richman, known as “Don’t Worry Murray,” who has represented fallen political figures, New York mafia soldiers and rappers in hot water, like DMX and Jay-Z, believes such a scenario is still possible for Silver.
“I don’t believe he’ll go to prison because of the virus,” he said in a telephone interview with The Village Sun from his Bronx office. “I believe his case will be put over for [another] sentencing and further opportunities for surrendering.”
Richman acknowledged having stated that he regards the case against Silver as “bullshit.” He noted that it’s not illegal for members of the New York State Legislature, who are attorneys, to have outside work and to accept referral fees, saying the practice has been going on for years.
“It’s always been legal but it’s not nice and [prosecutors] have spun them in a negative way over time,” he said. “It’s like beauty in the eye of the beholder.”
Radical left-wing lawyer Ron Kuby, another prominent mouthpiece, who has defended accused Muslim terrorists and members of the New York City Hells Angels motorcycle club, has a decidedly different view. He contends that Silver has “exhausted” his appeals to stay out of prison, except perhaps for the July 23 notice he filed for a writ of certiorari requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review his case.
“I think he’s run out of rope,” Kuby said. “I think it’s going to be hard for Sheldon Silver to stay out of prison. The judge made it clear there would be no further delays and adjournments. Even if the B.O.P. has not designated a prison, Caproni still has the discretion to order him remanded to the custody of M.C.C. [the Metropolitan Correction Center] or other [jails] until the B.O. P. designates a prison.
“The legal fact is that he’s exhausted his appeals,” Kuby continued during a phone conversation. “She can give him extra time to surrender if she chooses to do so. If the case went to The Supreme Court, it could stay a sentence but I doubt that very much taking place.”
Although Kuby says he doesn’t think anybody should go to prison, he believes that Silver has worked “very hard to get to prison.”
“I think his sentencing was eminently fair,” Kuby said. “I was surprised he was involved in corruption on such a massive scale. It wasn’t some personal act committed out of need. It was arrogant greed on his part.”
Richman has a less harsh assessment, noting that Silver was a “great public servant.”
“But he stayed too long in a position of power, one of three men in the room” of New York State government for 20 years, Richman said. “He may have come to believe the laws didn’t apply to him. It’s been widely accepted that, had he left in in a timely way, this case never would have arisen.”