Public corruption case highlights uncertainty of sentencing, need for legal advocate

For defendants who have been convicted, waiting for final sentencing can be a long, agonizing process. Judges have discretion, of course, in the sentencing process and not knowing exactly what the final sentencing ruling will be can be difficult. This is especially true in cases where prosecutors are seeking harsh punishment.

The public corruption case of former New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver is a good example of this. Silver was convicted last year on seven counts, including honest services fraud, money laundering, and extortion in connection to a scheme in which he is said to have received millions in illegal payments for benefiting constituents or supporters.

Six of the criminal counts could land Silver in prison for as much as 20 years each, which actually makes it seem generous that prosecutors in the case said that a sentence between 22 and 27 years “would not be unreasonable or unjust.” Prosecutors have not actually said exactly how much time they are requesting for Sheldon, but they did ask that Silver be given a harsher sentence than has been imposed on other state legislators convicted of public corruption. According to the New York Times, former assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. was sentenced to 14 years in prison last year, which suggests that prosecutors are seeking a sentence greater than that for Silver.

Silver’s own attorneys are saying that he should possibly not even receive prison time, or that minimum prison time would suffice if it was combined with extensive community service. It remains to be seen how far this recommendation will go with the court.

We’ll continue looking at this story in our next post, particularly as it relates to the federal sentencing guidelines, and why it is so important to have a strong legal advocate through the sentencing phase of the criminal process.


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