Justice for New Yorkers in the case of a corrupt politician was delayed, but not denied.
Five years after fending off punishment through legal challenges and delays, former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is finally getting his due for using his high political office to influence legislation and pad his bank account.
Once one of the three most politically powerful officials in the state government, Silver on Monday was sentenced to 6-1/2 years in prison and a $1 million fine for using his office to run a scheme to support a real estate developer’s position on rent regulations in exchange for some $4 million in bribes. As speaker, Silver wielded enormous power over legislation, state finances, funding for local areas and political careers.
In the leadership position he held for two decades, he was one of “three men in the room,” along with the governor and the Senate majority leader, who negotiated state budgets every year behind closed doors, controlling tens of billions of our hard-earned tax money.
Yet having that tremendous amount of power wasn’t enough for Silver. He felt compelled to compound his own constitutional authority through bribery and extortion for his own personal gain.
The sentence, which will likely put the 76-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life, is a victory for New Yorkers, who were victimized not only directly by Silver’s crimes, but also by the perpetuation of a system that allows unethical and illegal behavior by people in positions of trust to go undetected and unpunished.
The prison term sends a message to other corrupt politicians that even the most powerful can be brought down, and we hope it will serve as a warning and deterrent to other officials who believe they’re above the law.
Anything less than a lengthy prison sentence would have sent the opposite message, both to the corrupt politicians and the people they represent.
Of course, Silver did receive a break that others in less powerful positions would never get — being allowed to live his life in freedom while the appeals to his convictions played out in the courts.
For those of us in the real world, we often await our appeals in a jail cell, not in a fashionable brownstone in a wealthy section of New York City.
They say justice delayed is justice denied. And for the past few years, New Yorkers were denied justice in Silver’s bribery scam.
But not this time.
Next month, Silver will be marched off to prison with other criminals.
On Monday, New Yorkers got justice.
It’s about time.