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Sheldon Silver, who dominated New York state politics for years as the Democratic Assembly spokesman before being convicted of federal corruption charges, was taken back to prison on Thursday by two police officers with knowledge of the matter, according to two police officers.
Silver, 77, was in federal detention in a Lower Manhattan hospital Thursday afternoon and was due to be returned to Otisville, NY, prison later that day, one of the officers said.
The move came just two days after prison officials let Mr. Silver return home while on vacation while he awaited a decision on his application to serve the remainder of his prison sentence in domestic custody. At the time, he had served less than a year of his six and a half year prison sentence.
Mr. Silver’s return to prison so quickly indicated that his application had been denied, but a federal prison spokeswoman declined to comment on any aspect of his status.
“For reasons of privacy, security and protection, we do not discuss the status of an inmate’s detention or release plans,” the spokeswoman said. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, prison officials have leeway in determining which prisoners can be brought into the detention center.
However, one of the law enforcement officers with knowledge of the matter said that the decision whether Mr. Silver could complete his sentence with domestic detention or some other form of so-called supervised release was actually against him. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Mr. Silver, who was first elected to the State Assembly in 1976 and became speaker in 1994, could not be reached for comment. James P. Loonam, an attorney for Mr. Silver, declined to comment.
A spokesman for the US law firm in Manhattan prosecuting Mr. Silver’s case also declined to comment. The office had expressed its strong opposition to the possible release of Mr. Silver to prison officials.
Mr. Silver’s release from prison, followed by his speedy return, were only the last twists and turns in his long struggle to avoid incarceration.
He was initially sentenced to 14 years in prison after a federal jury found him guilty in 2015 of accepting nearly $ 4 million in illegal payments in exchange for his position on behalf of a cancer researcher and two real estate developers had used.
The conviction was overturned on appeal two years later after the Supreme Court overturned a political corruption conviction in Virginia and narrowed the legal definition of corruption.
Mr Silver was tried again in 2018, re-sentenced and sentenced to seven years in prison. In 2019, an appeals court overturned part of his conviction while another was upheld. (In January, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which allowed the conviction to stand.) He finally entered Otisville Prison in August last year.
At the time of Mr. Silver’s conviction last summer, his lawyers filed a motion to avoid prison and serve a sentence, citing his history of cancer and chronic kidney disease. They argued that incarceration would increase his chances of getting sick or dying from the coronavirus.
“Your honor, I don’t want to die in prison,” wrote Mr. Silver to the judge overseeing the case, Valerie E. Caproni of the Manhattan Federal District Court.
But Judge Caproni, who said Mr. Silver was “guilty of corruption, plain and simple”, said a “non-prison sentence is just not appropriate”.
And when Mr. Silver’s attorney asked that his client be allowed to postpone his handover time to prison, Judge Caproni refused.
“Sir. Silver, its time has come,” she said.
Benjamin Weiser Contribution to reporting.