One of the New York legislators responsible for the state’s draconian gun laws has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison, according to the Department of Justice.
Sheldon Silver served as New York’s Speaker of the House from 1994 until 2015. During that time, he sponsored and orchestrated the New York S.A.F.E. Act, an infamous set of gun control laws that banned “assault weapons,” restricted magazine capacity, and instituted universal background checks. Silver also used his official position to garner nearly $4 million in bribes and another $1 million through laundering the proceeds of his crimes.
“When he assumed his powerful position at the top of New York State government, Sheldon Silver took an oath to do the work of the people,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a statement. “Instead, he leveraged his tremendous influence to pad his bank account and line his pockets.”
A unanimous jury verdict in May found Silver guilty, which was the second time he had been convicted for these crimes. His first conviction in 2015 was thrown out by a U.S. Appeals Court as the result of a Supreme Court decision.
Silver begged the judge for mercy before sentencing.
“Everything I ever accomplished has become a joke and a spectacle. … I beg for your mercy so that I can somehow go out into the world again to atone to everyone I have hurt,” he wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni.
Caproni listened to Silver’s plea and knocked his 12-year jail sentence down to seven. Silver will also have to serve three years of supervised release.
The jury convicted Silver for entering into two kick-back schemes in which he used his position as Speaker of the House to benefit two real estate firms and a physician. In the first, Silver approached Glenwood Management Corp. and The Witkoff Group LLC and asked them to secure the legal services of Goldberg & Iryami, P.C. Silver received a cut of the legal fees, and in return he worked in the legislature to pass policies that benefitted the real estate developers.
In the second scheme, Silver agreed to a corrupt arrangement with Dr. Robert Taub, who was a leading physician specializing in the treatment of asbestos-related diseases. Dr. Taub referred his patients to Silver’s law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, and in return Silver funneled state funds to Taub’s practice and to the non-profits with which he was associated.
In addition, Silver attempted to thwart the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, which had been instituted by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in July of 2013, the same year the S.A.F.E. Act was passed.
Interestingly, Gov. Cuomo, another staunch anti-gun advocate, also came under fire for blocking the efforts of the Moreland Commission. When asked about these allegations in 2014 by Crain’s, Cuomo responded that he couldn’t be charged for tampering with his own commission.
“It’s not a legal question. The Moreland Commission was my commission,” Mr. Cuomo explained. “It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow.
“So, interference? It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”
Silver was found guilty by a unanimous jury on May 11, 2018, of two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of honest services mail fraud, two counts of extortion under color of official right, and one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions.