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Sheldon Silver, 77, dies in federal prison while serving time for a fraud conviction

BREAKING NEWS: Disgraced former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, 77, dies of cancer in federal prison while serving time for a fraud conviction

  • Silver, who was battling cancer and kidney disease, died in federal prison in Middlesex, Massachusetts
  • Silver, a Democrat, was once one of the three most powerful state officials in New York before his 2015 ouster over corruption allegations 
  • Silver had been serving six-and-a-half-year sentence for accepting $4million in bribes from real estate developers  


Disgraced former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has died in federal prison in Massachusetts, where he was serving a sentence on a fraud conviction. He was 77. 

Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan, was once one of the three most powerful state officials in New York. He led the state Assembly for more than two decades before his abrupt ouster in 2015 after corruption allegations emerged against him.

The disgraced politician, who had been battling cancer and kidney disease, passed away in a federal prison in Middlesex, Massachusetts.    

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, pictured at a 2018 court hearing, has died in a federal prison in Middlesex, Massachusetts, while serving more than six years on a bribery conviction 

Silver was seen being wheeled out of his apartment building on a stretcher in May 2021 on his way back to prison after a two-day furlough after authorities denied his home confinement

Silver was seen being wheeled out of his apartment building on a stretcher in May 2021 on his way back to prison after a two-day furlough after authorities denied his home confinement

Silver, who told a judge he prayed he would not die in prison, had been serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence stemming from a bribery scheme. 

During his time in power, Silver 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 totaling $4million, prosecutors argued.

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 2020.

Silver had begun serving his sentence in August 2020. In May of last year, he was briefly released on furlough while he awaited potential placement to home confinement, but a judge denied his request to serve the rest of his sentence under house arrest. 

Silver’s supporters have said he was in failing health and suffering from multiple medical conditions that make him more susceptible to contracting coronavirus. 

Silver’s conviction ended a nearly four-decade career in the Assembly. He first won a seat representing Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1976. Though he cut a low-key figure in the halls of the state Capitol, carefully parsing out comments in a baritone mumble, he was a consummate practitioner of Albany’s inside game.

During his time in power, Silver supported legislation that benefited real estate developers he knew in exchange for bribes (he is pictured in 2008)

During his time in power, Silver supported legislation that benefited real estate developers he knew in exchange for bribes (he is pictured in 2008)

He was elected Assembly speaker in 1994, a powerful position that put him on equal footing with the governor and state Senate leader when it came to making key decisions about annual budgets or major legislation.

In all, Silver served as speaker during the tenure of five New York governors, from Mario Cuomo to Andrew Cuomo.

He became known as an inscrutable and stubborn negotiator, blocking proposals so often he was sometimes called ‘Dr. No.’ Some of his obstructionist reputation had to do with being the lone Democrat at the negotiating table during Republican Gov. George Pataki’s three terms, during which time the GOP also controlled the state Senate. But not all of it.

He helped scuttle former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s plan to locate a football stadium on Manhattan’s West Side. And he took the brunt of the blame for the collapse in 2008 of Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing plan for Manhattan, which would have charged electronic tolls for driving through the borough’s most highly trafficked neighborhoods.

The exasperated mayor put out a press release saying it ‘takes a special kind of cowardice’ not to have lawmakers vote on the plan. Silver said he didn’t have the votes.

He survived an early tenure coup attempt and became adept at horse-trading to secure education funding, tenants rights legislation and other policies favored by Assembly Democrats. An Orthodox Jew, Silver was known to observe Sabbath even during the marathon negotiation sessions that preceded annual budget deadlines and the end of legislative sessions.

Over time, he became a symbol of Albany’s much-maligned opaque style of governance and, ultimately, a target of federal prosecutors. 

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