Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful figures in state government for two decades before his conviction on corruption charges, has died in federal custody. He was 77.
Silver died Monday, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
WXXI reports Silver, an Orthodox Jew whose parents were Russian immigrants, was a native of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was elected to the state Assembly in 1977, and as speaker in 1994. He held the post for more than two decades, and at the time was one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
Silver survived an attempted coup in 2000 on his leadership from Syracuse-area Assemblyman Michael Bragman. For years afterward, he wielded influence in key negotiations on the state’s budget and other policy issues, often giving briefings after closed-door leaders meeting in his distinctive deep, gravelly voice.
The late former speaker was criticized for his handling of sexual harassment charges against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and also against a former top aide, who was accused of raping two legislative aides while he was working for the speaker and eventually pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct.
Silver fell from grace in 2015, when he was arrested on federal corruption charges by the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York. He resigned from the speaker’s post.
Silver remained an Assemblyman, but had to leave that post later that year when he was convicted on multiple felony charges for illegally netting $4 million for engineering bribery and kickback schemes. The former speaker saw the charges overturned on appeal, but was convicted in a retrial in 2018. After losing more appeals, he began serving a 6.5-year prison term in July 2020. He also had to pay a $1 million fine.
Silver, who was suffering from cancer, was briefly released to his home in May 2021, under provisions of a pandemic-related federal policies that allowed early release to some medically vulnerable inmates. But after public outcry, he was sent back two days later to the federal prison in Otisville, where he died on Monday.