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Now will they get the message?

Now will they get the message?

Silver sentencing shows corrupt lawmakers that they'll be punished severely for their crimes

Maybe this is finally the kick in the pants the state Legislature needs to take steps to disperse Albany's dark cloud of corruption.

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday received an appropriately punitive sentence for using his power, influence and high office to accept payments for legislation.

In addition to forcing the 72-year-old to serve 12 years in prison, Judge Valerie Caproni said he must repay $5.18 million he gained from his transgressions and pay a fine on top of that of $1.75 million.

The prison sentence was less than the prosecution had sought, but still certainly sufficiently harsh to send a strong message to other lawmakers who either are committing illegal activities now or who might consider them in the future.

When former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos 68, is sentenced next Thursday, the judge in his case should impose an equally harsh punishment for corrupting his office for personal and family gain. And when former Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson is sentenced a week later for interfering with an investigation into charges of embezzlement, he, too, should spend a lot of time in prison.

By that time, there'll be enough former New York legislators in the federal lock-up to start their own inmates' baseball team.

And that should be a wake-up call for the remaining lawmakers to not only straighten out their own acts, but to take action to ensure others aren't tempted to commit similar offenses.

No one should be deriving any pleasure from imposing lengthy prison sentences on sick old men.

But dirty politicians who use their power to influence legislation for their own personal benefit make the system unfair for everyone.

Each vote that a legislator receives on Election Day should count the same as any other. No citizen or business should be getting any extra, special privileges because they have the financial means and connections to get them.

That might sound a bit Pollyanna, we know, but we as citizens have a right to expect that our government treats all of us the same.

When these politicians are caught and convicted, they are paying not only for their crimes, but for violating the trust the voters placed in them.

To further discourage such behavior, the remaining honest members of the state Legislature need to pass legislation, regulations and penalties that make it difficult for their colleagues to even attempt what the Silvers and Skeloses have gotten away with for so many years.

Of course, prison sentences aren't always a deterrent to crime.

But if enough corrupt legislators are sentenced to enough prison time, it might finally be the message Albany has long needed to hear.

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