Corrupt Dem Politician Sheldon Silver Released From Prison on Furlough In this May 11, 2018 file photo, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver leaves federal court in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
By Nick Koutsobinas | Tuesday, 04 May 2021 11:02 PM
Sheldon Silver, a former Democratic New York Assembly speaker whose political career ended on corruption charges, was released from prison Tuesday after serving less than a year of a six-and-a-half-year sentence while awaiting a final decision on whether he can serve the rest of his sentence there in home confinement.
The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on Silver's status.
"For privacy, safety, and security reasons, we do not discuss release plans for any inmate to include furlough status where applicable," the bureau said, according to The New York Times.
The federal Bureau of Prisons didn’t provide details or a reason for the transfer, but Congress gave the Justice Department expanded powers during the coronavirus pandemic to release inmates on furlough and home confinement to prevent them from catching the virus behind bars.
At the time of Silver’s sentencing last summer, his lawyers asked that he be allowed to avoid prison and serve a term of home confinement because of his history of cancer and chronic kidney disease. They argued that imprisonment would increase his chances of becoming ill or even dying from the coronavirus.
Nearly 25,000 prisoners have been placed on home confinement by the since last March amid the pandemic. More than 7,000 were under home confinement as of Tuesday, according to the agency’s statistics, reports The Times.
Yuh-Line Niou, a Democratic assemblywoman who represents the area Silver once did, told the New York Post: "no New Yorker should die from the pandemic while in jail."
"We should be taking steps for all incarcerated New Yorkers in at-risk populations to be safe from Covid-19," Niou said. "Our prisons have been and are still hot spots for the virus, and we need to remain vigilant about combating coronavirus in our prison system."
Silver was seen by media going into his Manhattan apartment building later Tuesday. Wearing a gray cap and blue face covering, he sat in a wheelchair as he was taken into the residence.
A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Silver, said it sent an email to the Bureau of Prisons on Monday opposing his furlough.
Lawyers who have represented Silver at trial and at the appeals court either said they no longer represent him or did not respond to email and voice messages.
Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, was once one of the three most powerful state officials in New York. He was the Assembly’s leader for more than two decades before his abrupt ouster in 2015 after the corruption allegations emerged.
He was ultimately convicted in a scheme that involved a type of illegal back-scratching that has long plagued Albany. He supported legislation that benefited real estate developers he knew. In return, they referred tax business to a law firm that employed Silver, which then paid him fees.
Appeals kept Silver out of prison for years. His initial 2015 conviction was overturned on appeal before he was convicted again in 2018. Part of that conviction was then tossed out on another appeal, leading to yet another sentencing in July.
Under the bureau’s guidelines, priority for home confinement is supposed to be given to those inmates who have served half of their sentence or inmates with 18 months or less left and who served at least 25% of their time. But the bureau has discretion about who can be released.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.