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In Depth: Why hasn't former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gone to jail yet?

November 23, 2016 06:24 PM

It was a fall from grace that still reverberates throughout the New York State Capitol.

One year ago this week, Sheldon Silver became a convicted felon.

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Twelve months later, the former Assembly speaker still hasn't seen the inside of a prison cell. So what’s the hold up?

When a federal jury unanimously decided in November 2015 that Sheldon Silver was guilty of being a corrupt politician, the expectation may have been that Silver would be shipped off to prison to serve his 12-year sentence and that he would begin repaying millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes. However, one year after his conviction the reality has fallen far short of that expectation.

"It is unusual that one year after a conviction in federal court and a substantial sentence that you're not beginning to serve that time," admitted Albany Attorney Paul DerOhannesian.

WEB EXTRA: Albany Attorney Paul DerOhannesian

He says what isn't unusual is a defendant remaining free while waiting to hear from the U.S. Supreme Court.

"When there's a substantial issue that you raise that for a court to consider that you can stay out, that applies across the board. You just don't hear about it with individuals who aren't well known," DerOhannesian acknowledged.

Speaking of well known, DerOhannesian points out that former Senator Joe Bruno and former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell also remained free while waiting for their convictions, both of them eventually overturned, to make their way through the appeals process.

"Whether it's Senator Bruno or Governor McDonnell, this is why you may not want someone to start serving a sentence if there is a question, because once you put that time in, how do you give back jail time to someone who never should have served that time," DerOhannesian asked.

However, even though Silver is allowed to remain free on bail, the judge has ordered him to begin financial transfers. Records obtained by NewsChannel 13 indicate Silver sent them $700 for a special assessment at the end of August, along with $5,800 for restitution. Then, another $5,800 at the end of October to pay a fine.

The legal system doesn't forget, even though the general public might.

"People have left that long ago," reasoned Barbara Bartoletti, of the League of Women Voters. She believes the old adage: "out of sight, out of mind" applies here.

"If it comes back into the headlines, I think people will go, ‘Oh yeah, he was the disgraced speaker of the Assembly,’ but people in New York as, I think, around the country have very short memories when it comes to things like this. They go on with their daily lives," surmised Bartoletti.

WEB EXTRA: Barbara Bartoletti

Daily living for Sheldon Silver however, according to DerOhannesian, might not be that easy.

"I don't think any defendant whose convicted of a federal crime, facing a lengthy jail sentence should ever feel good and comfortable unless and until someone has given him the all clear sign," he concluded.

The bottom line, DerOhannesian says, one year isn't that long for a case to still be pending within the appellate process.

NewsChannel 13 will keep you posted.

Credits

Dan Levy

Copyright 2017 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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