Sheldon Silver, the Democratic powerhouse who ruled Albany with an iron fist until he was busted and later convicted on federal corruption charges in a stunning fall from grace, died Monday in prison. He was 77.
The disgraced politician died at the Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, Massachusetts, while serving out a six-and-half-year sentence at a nearby prison after he was convicted for accepting nearly $4 million in bribes while in office, the Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed.
His official cause of death will be determined by a medical examiner but the longtime kingmaker had a history of chronic kidney disease and cancer.
“For all our many disagreements and battles, it’s a sad day and a stark reminder that integrity in public service matters,” former Gov. George Pataki told The Post after learning of Silver’s death.
“When I look back, I always try to think about the good, the accomplishments we achieved together and there were many, but there could have and should have been more. It’s a shame that his career in public service ended in such a tragic way, but it is a lesson that is important today.”
Silver’s family didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Born in 1944 to Russian immigrants, the Manhattan native first took office in 1976 and later became the Assembly Speaker in 1994, a powerful position that made him one of Albany’s “three men in a room” negotiating annual budgets and major legislation with the governor and state Senate leader.
Throughout four-decades in office, Silver served as Speaker under five New York governors, from Mario Cuomo to Andrew Cuomo, and earned a reputation as one of the most feared men in Albany. He was a harsh negotiator who blocked proposals so often, he earned the moniker “Dr. No” and was the legislator responsible for blocking a series of high-profile initiatives under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
When Bloomberg tried to find a location for a football stadium on Manhattan’s West Side, Silver scuttled the plan and in 2008, he was blamed when a congestion-pricing program failed to make its way through the legislature.
Bloomberg wanted to impose a toll on motorists driving through the borough’s most highly trafficked neighborhoods and when the plan died in Albany, the mayor put out a press release saying it “takes a special kind of cowardice” not to have lawmakers weigh in. Silver responded that he didn’t have the votes.
For nearly 25 years, Silver had a near-impenetrable powerhold on state politics until 2015 when he was arrested on federal extortion, wire fraud and mail fraud charges for running a series of corrupt kickback schemes while in office.
Once the most powerful man in New York’s capital, Silver soon lost his grip on the statehouse and was forced to resign from the Assembly.
He was convicted on all charges in Nov. 2015 and sentenced to 12 years in prison but used his influence and considerable means to stave off jail time for another five years.
In 2017, his conviction was overturned after an appeals court found the jury instructions used in the trial were invalid and when he was found guilty again the following year, he appealed a second time and remained free on bail while New York’s highest court reviewed the case.
This is an excerpt from the New York Post.
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