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Former NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Sentenced To 7 Years

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday.

He is expected to begin serving his prison term on Oct. 1.

The punishment, announced by U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, was five years less than the 12-year sentence she gave to Silver after he was initially convicted in the case in 2015.

That conviction was tossed out by an appeals court, but the 74-year-old Democrat fared no better at a second trial this spring. At his retrial this spring, a jury found Silver guilty of earning nearly $4 million illegally by collecting fees from a cancer researcher and real estate developers.

Prosecutors say he invested those proceeds and collected another $1 million in illegal profits.

Prosecutors has said Silver should spend well over 10 years in prison. Defense attorneys argued for far less prison time and a community service component that would allow Silver to get out from behind bars.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, Silver begged for mercy.

"I pray I will not die in prison," Silver wrote, saying he was "broken-hearted" that he damaged the trust people have in government.

"The work that has been the focus of most of my life has become dirty and shameful," Silver said in his letter.

"Everything I ever accomplished has become a joke and a spectacle."

In handing down the sentence, Caproni said, "this crime was driven by unmitigated greed." She also said when Silver's obituary is written, it would not focus on the fact that he was once one of the most powerful  men in the state; it would focus on this case.

Prosecutors told Caproni in a written submission that they had proven that Silver "repeatedly corrupted the great power of his office for personal profit and caused incalculable damage to the public trust."

Silver's attorneys wanted to limit his time in jail after what they call "a meaningful custodial sentence." They want him to do community service, like running a help desk assisting New Yorkers, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

The judge will also decide whether to allow Silver to remain free pending his appeal.

In his letter to the judge, Silver said he's worried about his wife and grandchildren and how they'll be treated because of him.

Silver's first conviction and 2015 and a 12-year prison sentence were tossed out by an appeals court as a result of a recent Supreme Court ruling that tweaked the legal boundaries of what constituted corruption.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said he hopes the sentence sends a clear message that "brokering official favors for your personal benefit is illegal and will result in prison time."

First elected in 1976, Silver served as speaker for 21 years, resigning after his 2015 arrest.

His sentencing comes 10 days after Dean Skelos, the former New York Senate leader, and his son, Adam, were convicted of extortion, wire fraud and bribery at a retrial for each of them.

Like Silver, the once-powerful Republican and his son also were granted a new trial after the Supreme Court narrowed public corruption law as it reversed the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. They were also convicted at a retrial.

Silver and Skelos were among a trio dubbed the "three men in a room" in Albany, a nod to the longstanding practice of legislative leaders and the governor negotiating key bills behind closed doors. Skelos served in the Senate from 1985 to 2015 and became Senate leader in 2008.

Over 30 New York state lawmakers have left office under a cloud of criminal or ethical allegations since 2000. More than a dozen have been convicted of charges including authorizing bribes to get on a ballot, diverting money meant for community programs into a campaign and skimming funds from contributions to a Little League baseball program.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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