|119th Speaker of the New York State Assembly|
February 11, 1994 – February 2, 2015
|Preceded by||Saul Weprin|
|Succeeded by||Joseph D. Morelle (acting)|
|Member of the New York State Assembly|
from the 65th district
January 1, 2013 – November 30, 2015
|Preceded by||Micah Kellner|
|Succeeded by||Alice Cancel|
|Constituency||Lower Manhattan, New York City|
|Member of the New York State Assembly|
from the 64th district
January 1, 2003 – December 31, 2012
|Preceded by||Richard N. Gottfried|
|Succeeded by||Nicole Malliotakis|
|Member of the New York State Assembly|
from the 62nd district
January 1, 1983 – December 31, 2002
|Preceded by||Paul M. Viggiano|
|Succeeded by||Robert Straniere|
|Member of the New York State Assembly|
from the 63rd district
January 1, 1977 – December 31, 1982
|Preceded by||Anthony G. DiFalco|
|Succeeded by||Steven Sanders|
|Born||February 13, 1944|
Lower East Side, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Residence||Lower East Side, New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Yeshiva University (B.A.)|
Brooklyn Law School (J.D.)
|Website||Archived Assembly website|
Sheldon Silver (born February 13, 1944) is a former lawyer, Democratic Party politician from New York City and convicted felon who served as Speaker of the New York State Assembly from 1994 until 2015.
In 2015, Silver was arrested on federal corruption charges, and resigned as Speaker of the Assembly shortly thereafter. In November 2015, Silver was convicted of all charges; the felony convictions triggered his automatic expulsion from the Assembly.
In May 2016, Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to repay $5.3 million in ill-gotten gains and $1.75 million in additional fines. Silver's conviction was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan in July 2017, but in May 2018, following a retrial, he was found guilty on the same charges, and in July 2018 was sentenced to seven years in prison. As of January 21, 2020[update], he is awaiting resentencing following the Second Circuit Court's decision on his appeal of the outcome of the second trial, in which the guilty verdict on some of the charges was set aside but upheld for other charges, and has not yet had to report to prison.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Law career
- 3 Political career
- 4 Criminal proceedings
- 5 Personal life
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
An Orthodox Jew whose parents were Russian immigrants, Silver has lived all his life on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He graduated from the Rabbi Jacob Joseph High School on Henry Street, where he was captain of the basketball team. Silver graduated from Yeshiva University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965, and received his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 1968.
Silver practiced law with the firm of Schecter and Schwartz from 1968 until 1971, and then served as law secretary for New York City Civil Court Judge Francis N. Pecora from 1971 to 1976. In addition to Silver's duties in the New York State Assembly from 1977 to 2015, he was "of counsel" at Weitz & Luxenberg, one of New York State's largest personal injury litigation firms.
For years, Weitz & Luxenberg insisted that Silver's ties with the firm were negligible. In 2007, the New York Post charged that Silver's refusal to disclose the terms of his employment or the income he received raised suspicions of a conflict of interest. When these details became public, the income he had received from Weitz & Luxenberg and the manner in which Silver obtained it ultimately led to his arrest, resignation as Speaker, conviction, and prison sentence.
He was first elected to the Assembly in 1976 and rose to key committee leadership positions. He represented the Assembly District variously numbered as 62nd through 65th, comprising much of Lower Manhattan, notably the Financial District and the former World Trade Center site. Silver advanced to the chairmanship of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee in 1991, and served in this post until becoming Speaker.
During the election years of his speakership, 1994–2014, Silver's district typically re-elected him with 80 to 90 percent of the vote. In 2008, he had his first Democratic primary challenge in over two decades, winning 69 percent, or 7,037 votes, to defeat his challengers, Paul Newell, who earned 22 percent (2,401 votes), and Luke Henry with 9 percent (891). Silver was re-elected on November 4 with 27,632 votes. His Republican challenger, Danniel Maio, received 7,387 votes.
Speaker of New York State Assembly
As Speaker, Silver was instrumental in the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York State in 1995. It was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the New York Court of Appeals in 2004 (see People v. LaValle), as the law stipulated that if jurors were deadlocked between sentences of life without parole and execution, the court would sentence the defendant to life imprisonment with parole eligibility after serving 20 to 25 years.
The Court ruled that in such a case, execution would seem unfairly preferable to the jury. New York's crime rate had dropped significantly in the decade since the law was passed, without seeing a single execution, and Silver let the law expire without much debate.
In December 2005, after two New York City police officers were killed in as many months, Governor George Pataki called for reinstatement of the death penalty. The New York Times quoted Silver's spokesman Charles Carrier as saying, "He no longer supports it because Assembly hearings have shown it is not the most effective way to improve public safety."
In 1997 and throughout his Assembly career, Silver was a key advocate of state-administered rent regulation of New York apartments. This complex and highly politicized system made the Speaker a central figure, continually courted by major participants in the real-estate industry.
In 1967, New York City leveled the 20-acre (80,000 m2) Seward Park Urban Renewal Area in Silver's neighborhood, and removed more than 1,800 low-income largely Hispanic families, with a promise that they could return to new low-income apartments when they were built. However, the site was kept undeveloped for decades afterward, as Silver and key allies strove to maintain the area's Jewish identity and opposed affordable housing, which would have brought more Hispanic and Chinese residents. Finally in 2012, the site was approved for the Essex Crossing mixed-use development project. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2024, some 57 years after the site was cleared.
In 1999, Silver was instrumental in the repeal of New York City's commuter tax on non-resident earners. The repeal was a benefit to those commuting to work in the city from surrounding areas, but came at a substantial cost to New York City residents. Silver was criticized by city leaders for removing the tax, and although he suggested he would support reinstating it after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he took no steps to do so.
Attempted "coup" and criticism
In 2000, Silver faced an attempted "coup" in the Assembly as members, primarily from Upstate New York and dissatisfied with his leadership style, tried to overthrow him as Speaker. Michael Bragman, the leader of the backlash, lost his position as majority leader. An editorial in The Buffalo News, written in response, criticized Silver for having too much power:
The problem—which also exists in the State Senate—can be boiled down to a single overarching issue: The Assembly speaker has too much power. He controls everything, from the legislation that can be voted on to how his normally docile members vote on it. He decides what the Assembly will accept in a state budget. He negotiates secretly with the other two leaders to hammer out important, expensive and far-reaching laws. And he ignores the wishes of less-exalted lawmakers.
New York congestion tolls
In July 2007, Silver was skeptical about Mayor Michael Bloomberg's New York congestion pricing program. When a meeting of the Democratic Assembly Conference indicated the proposal lacked sufficient support, Silver declined to schedule a vote on the measure, and it died. Although he stated that he "probably would have voted for the bill," a majority of his conference opposed the proposed plan.
Proponents argued that it would reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, lead to less-crowded streets, and raise much-needed funds for public transportation, while opponents objected to the notion of a new driving tax.
Mixed martial arts
Silver, in his role as Speaker, was widely blamed for the delay in passing A04146A through the Assembly to legalize professional mixed martial arts in New York State. New York became the last of the 50 states to allow the sport in early 2016, after Silver's expulsion from the Assembly.
Failure to investigate sexual harassment
A former top aide to Silver, chief counsel J. Michael Boxley, was accused of raping two legislative aides while he was working for the Speaker, and Boxley eventually pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct. Silver was sued for failing to investigate the accusations properly and for tolerating a culture of sexual harassment in the Assembly. In 2006, Silver and the Assembly leadership agreed to pay $500,000 to settle the lawsuit. Similar settlements in 2012 and 2015 resulted from multiple harassment charges against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and Silver was accused of not acting forcefully to prevent Lopez's behavior. Silver apologized for not reporting cases to the Assembly's Ethics Committee as required, and said that since then he "put in place new policies to ensure these incidents are dealt with swiftly and transparently."
On January 7, 2015, Silver was re-elected Speaker of the New York State Assembly for the 11th time, with almost unanimous support from the Democratic majority despite an ongoing federal probe into his outside income.
Two weeks later, on January 22, Silver was arrested on federal corruption charges resulting from that probe. The federal inquiry, which followed the state's abruptly disbanded Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, focused on large payments that Silver received for years from Goldberg & Iryami, a law firm that specialized in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes for real estate developers. Silver was alleged to have persuaded developers who had business with the state to use the firm, which in turn generated $700,000 in referral fees to Silver.
Investigators led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged that Silver did not properly disclose the payments from the firm on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state. Goldberg & Iryami's major client was the state's single-largest political donor, while the founding partner, Jay Goldberg, was Silver's former Assembly counsel, and partner Dara Iryami agreed to testify under immunity.
Similar charges were also filed involving millions of dollars in referral fees that Silver received from the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg. In this scheme, Silver was alleged to have directed about $500,000 in state grants to Dr. Robert Taub, a researcher in diseases caused by asbestos and the director of the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center.
Taub then referred asbestos claimants to Weitz and Luxemburg, a law firm that employed Silver and paid him $1.4 million in salary and another $3.9 million in referral fees although he did no work on the asbestos cases for them. Weitz and Luxemburg promptly placed Silver on leave. Both Taub and another of Silver's longtime associates, Brian Meara, provided key information to investigators in exchange for non-prosecution agreements.
On January 30, after a week of intense political pressure and dwindling support, Silver submitted his resignation as Speaker, effective February 2, while retaining his position as a member of the Assembly and vowing to fight the charges against him. On February 3, the Assembly elected Carl Heastie as their new Speaker.
On April 25, 2015, Silver was indicted on additional charges of making illegal investments through private vehicles, netting a profit of $750,000. He pleaded not guilty to those charges three days later, on April 28.
Silver's trial lasted for much of November 2015. On November 30, 2015, a unanimous jury found Silver guilty on all seven counts, triggering automatic expulsion from the Assembly. The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, which handles judicial and attorney misconduct, affirmed his automatic disbarment for the felony conviction.
On May 3, 2016, federal judge Valerie E. Caproni of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, who presided over the trial, sentenced Silver to 12 years in jail, and ordered him to pay $5.3 million in ill-gotten gains and $1.75 million in additional fines. Silver received two prison terms: 12 years for six criminal counts against him and 10 years on the seventh, to run concurrently.
After the conviction, he remained free on bail as a panel of judges considered his appeal based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McDonnell v. United States that reversed the corruption conviction of a former Virginia Governor.
The Supreme Court decision in the McDonnell case narrowed the kinds of activities that could constitute corruption, and Silver's conviction was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan on July 13, 2017.
Retrial and conviction
After his conviction was overturned, Silver was retried on the same charges. On May 11, 2018, he was again found guilty on all counts. On July 27, 2018, Judge Caproni sentenced him to seven years in prison, five years less than the sentence she gave him for his first conviction, citing his advancing age.
Silver was due to report to prison on October 5, 2018, but again appealed his conviction, this time to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. While his case was under continued appeal, he was not imprisoned, and remained free on $200,000 bail.
On March 14, 2019, a week before Silver was rescheduled to report to prison, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals allowed him, without explanation, to remain free while they continued to consider his appeal. Two of three judges on the panel questioned whether the alleged bribery schemes really fit the Supreme Court's narrowed definition of corruption. On January 21, 2020, the panel unanimously dismissed the three charges stemming from Silver's involvement in the asbestos exposure cases but upheld the other four charges related to the kickbacks from Goldberg & Iryamai and for money laundering, sending the case back to Judge Caproni for resentencing. He is still free while awaiting resentencing.
Silver and his wife Rosa, a former special needs schoolteacher, have four adult children. According to court papers unsealed during the sentencing phase of his first trial, Silver was alleged to have had two extra-marital affairs, both of which were connected to his Albany position.
Two weeks after Silver's first criminal conviction, his son-in-law Marcello Trebitsch was sentenced to prison for a separate multimillion-dollar crime, also prosecuted by Bharara's office.
- "Sheldon Silver Is Convicted in 2nd Corruption Trial". The New York Times. May 11, 2018. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
- Weiser, Benjamin (July 27, 2018). "Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Gets 7-Year Prison Sentence". New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the State Assembly who rose to become one of New York’s most powerful politicians, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Friday for his conviction on federal corruption charges.
- Fisher, Ian (November 22, 1994). "With Cuomo's Loss, Speaker Is Top Democrat in Albany". New York Times.
- Hakim, Danny; Kaplan, Thomas (May 20, 2013). "Bad Week Is Merely Bump for Assembly's Master of Power". New York Times.
- "Sheldon Silver: Profile". Weitz & Luxenberg. Archived from the original on November 22, 2008. Retrieved February 23, 2015.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
- "The Speaker's Day Job". New York Post. March 20, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- "Election Results (1994–2014)". New York State Board of Elections. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
- Gray, Geoffrey (June 1, 2008). "The Obstructionist". New York Magazine.
- "Statement and Return Report for Certification" (PDF). Board of Elections in the City of New York. September 22, 2008.
- "Capital Punishment, 1995–2005, editorial". New York Daily News. April 13, 2005.
- Hu, Winnie (December 17, 2005). "Pataki Wants Death Penalty for Killers of Police". New York Times.
- Barbanel, Josh (January 25, 2015). "Speaker's Woes Leave Tenant Advocates Wary". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- Buettner, Russ (March 21, 2014). "They Kept a Lower East Side Lot Vacant for 47 Years". New York Times.
- "Essex Crossing Development Plans Set To Change Lower East Side, Will Cost $1.1 Billion". Huffington Post. September 18, 2013.
- McMahon, E.J. (January 19, 2002). "The Tax Whose Time Has Gone". Fiscal Watch Memo. Manhattan Institute. Archived from the original on February 6, 2002.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
- "The Winner and Still King". Buffalo News. May 25, 2000. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- Lachman, Seymour P.; Polner, Robert (2006). Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse. New Press. ISBN 9781595580320.
- "Legislature Isn't Sinister, Look Beyond The Surface". Herald American. Syracuse, N.Y. December 4, 1994.
Budgets and policy bills are negotiated by 'three men in a room' who are not challenged by the members dependent on leadership resources. Reform is clearly needed.
- "Rank and File of Albany Chafing at Their Bit Parts". New York Times. January 3, 1998.
In New York, budget negotiations are derisively known as 'three men in a room.' The Senate majority leader, Assembly Speaker and their hand-picked staffs do all of the haggling with the Governor, all in private. Legislative committees sit on the sidelines, receiving much of their information from newspaper articles.
- "Reforming Albany the Right Way". New York Daily News. November 29, 2004.
Only when talks are concluded do the public and rank-and-file lawmakers get a clue as to what was on the table. This three-men-in-a-room process has been decried for years, and 20 years of late budgets more than proves it doesn't work.
- "Aqueduct Gaming Report Rips Paterson, Senate Leadership". Times Union (Albany). October 21, 2010.
Much of the corruption, Fisch noted, was enabled by special rules devised in 2008. They enshrined the power of the so-called 'three men in a room' – at the time, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Silver and Republican Majority Leader Joseph Bruno – to a degree that was unusual even by Albany's lax ethical standards.
- "Silver & Skelos: New York's Corruption-Trial Double Feature". New York Post. November 16, 2015.
As recently as January, the two pols (along with the governor) made up the infamous 'three men in a room' – the trio that secretively makes all the decisions in Albany.
- Paybarah, Azi (April 9, 2008). "Congestion Drip: Is Sheldon Silver the Man to Blame?". New York Observer. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
- Okamoto, Brett (June 16, 2011). "Fertitta on NY: 'It's Clear We Have The Votes'". ESPN. Retrieved February 1, 2015.
- Iole, Kevin (May 28, 2012). "MMA in New York? Not Until Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's Gone..." Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
- Hamilton, Matthew (April 14, 2016). "New York KO's ban on professional MMA fights". Times Union (Albany).
- Hakim, Danny (July 14, 2008). "Two Accusers of an Ex-Aide Join an Effort to Oust Silver". New York Times.
- Hakim, Danny (August 30, 2012). "2 Women Received $32,000 From Assemblyman, Beyond Money From State". New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- McKinley, Jesse (February 6, 2015). "Harassment Suit Against Former Assemblyman Vito Lopez and Sheldon Silver Is Settled". New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- Campanile, Carl (January 7, 2015). "Sheldon Silver Elected to 11th Term as Speaker, Despite Probe". New York Post. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
- Craig, Susanne (January 22, 2015). "Complaint Details How Silver Earned Millions From Obscure Legal Work". New York Times. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
- Matthews, Brad (January 23, 2015). "New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Arrested on Corruption Charges by the FBI". Watchdog Arena. Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- Musumeci, Natalie; Eustachewich, Lia (January 23, 2015). "Famed doctor at center of Silver bribery case loses job". New York Post. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
- Rashbaum, William K.; Kaplan, Thomas (January 22, 2015). "Sheldon Silver, Assembly Speaker, Took Millions in Payoffs, U.S. Says". New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
- Calder, Rich; Campanile, Carl; Short, Aaron; Golding, Bruce (January 22, 2015). "Sheldon Silver Arrested for Taking $4M in Bribes, Kickbacks". New York Post. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
- Klepper, David (January 23, 2015). "Top N.Y. Politician's Arrest Prompts Calls for Ethics Overhaul". Miami Herald. Associated Press. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
- Kaplan, Thomas (January 28, 2015). "Sheldon Silver Taking Leave of Absence From Law Firm". New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- Short, Aaron; Campanile, Carl (January 29, 2015). "'Shocked' Law Firm Gives Sheldon Silver the Boot". New York Post. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
- Campanile, Carl; Schram, Jamie; Golding, Bruce (January 23, 2015). "Close Friend, Top Lobbyist Helped Feds Take Down Sheldon Silver". New York Post. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
- "Silver to Resign as Speaker on Monday". NY1 News. January 30, 2015. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- Kaplan, Thomas (February 3, 2015). "New Speaker in Albany: A Skilled Operator, Embracing Change". New York Times. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- Hofmann, Tess (April 24, 2015). "Silver Hit With New Charges". The Real Deal: New York Real Estate News.
- Mueller, Benjamin (April 28, 2015). "Sheldon Silver Pleads Not Guilty to Newest Charge". New York Times.
- Craig, Susanne; Weiser, Benjamin (November 3, 2016). "Jury Selection Begins in Sheldon Silver Corruption Trial". New York Times. p. A27. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
- Craig, Susanne; Weiser, Benjamin (November 4, 2015). "Lawyers Offer Contrasting Views of Sheldon Silver as His Corruption Trial Starts". New York Times. p. A22. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
- Weiser, Benjamin; Craig, Susanne (November 30, 2015). "Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Is Found Guilty on All Counts". New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2015.
- Ross, Barbara; Bekiempis, Victoria (March 29, 2016). "Sheldon Silver loses law license as corrupt ex-Assembly speaker awaits April sentencing of up to 130 years". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- Whitehouse, Kaja; Eustachewich, Lia (May 3, 2016). "Sheldon Silver Gets 12 Years in Prison for Corruption". New York Post.
- Weiser, Benjamin; Yee, Vivian (May 3, 2016). "Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Gets 12-Year Prison Sentence". New York Times.
- Weiser, Benjamin (March 16, 2017). "Sheldon Silver Appeal Looks to New Definition of Corruption". New York Times.
- Weiser, Benjamin (July 13, 2017). "Sheldon Silver's 2015 Corruption Conviction Is Overturned". New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
- "Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sentenced to 7 years in prison". nbcnews.com. NBC News. Associated Press. July 27, 2018. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- Bensimon, Olivia; Sanders, Anna (July 28, 2018). "Sheldon Silver spends last moments of freedom at synagogue". New York Post. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
- Weiser, Benjamin (October 4, 2018). "How Sheldon Silver Manages to Brush Off Challenges, Including Prison". New York Times. p. A19. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
- Brown, Stephen Rex (March 15, 2019). "Sheldon Silver Wins Delay of Prison Sentence as Court Considers His Appeal". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
- "18‐2380 United States v. Silver" (PDF). courthousenews.com. Courthouse News. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- Weiser, Benjamin (January 22, 2020). "Sheldon Silver's Corruption Conviction Is Partially Overturned". New York Times. p. A22. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
- Saul, Emily (January 21, 2020). "Sheldon Silver's 2018 corruption conviction partially overturned". New York Post. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
- Fears, Danica (January 23, 2015). "Sheldon Silver's Wealth a Well-Kept Secret". New York Post.
- Breidenbach, Michelle (January 22, 2015). "Sheldon Silver: The Man Upstaters Love to Hate". Syracuse Post-Standard.
- Weiser, Benjamin (April 15, 2016). "U.S. Cites Extramarital Affairs as Misuse of Power in Sheldon Silver Case". New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
- Shapiro, Rachel (July 10, 2014). "Assembly Speaker Silver's Goldmine". The Jewish Voice. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
- Larson, Erik (December 16, 2015). "Sheldon Silver's Son-in-Law Gets 2 Years for Running Ponzi Scam". Bloomberg News. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sheldon Silver.|
- Sheldon Silver's New York State Assembly Page (archived)
- Shelly Silver's non-governmental website
- United States of America v. Sheldon Silver (criminal complaint)
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|New York Assembly|
Anthony G. DiFalco
| New York State Assembly
Paul M. Viggiano
| New York State Assembly
Richard N. Gottfried
| New York State Assembly
| New York State Assembly
| New York State Assembly
Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means
Herman D. Farrell, Jr.
| Speaker of the New York State Assembly