SHELDON SILVER SENTENCE

Former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was once one of the most powerful politicians in New York. Tomorrow, he will be sentenced after being found guilty on charges of federal corruption. We have a preview of what promises to be a tense day in court and in Albany.

Aired on July 26, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

GOOD EVENING, AND WOKS TO 'METROFOCUS.' I'M JACK FORD.

A FALL FROM GRACE, WHERE JOE PERCOCO, DEAN SKELLOS, ALSO SHELDON SILVER, ALL FOUND GUILTY OF CORRUPTION AND CONVICTED GUILTY OF BREAKING THE LAW.

MATT RYAN HAS THE LATEST ON SILVER AS HE PREPARES FOR SENTENCING.

HI, JACK, IT'S BEEN THREE AND A HALF YEARS SINCE THE NEWS BROKE OF SHELDON SILVER'S INDICTMENT.

HE WAS APPROACHING THE RECORD FOR LONGEST SERVING ASSEMBLY SPEAKER IN NEW YORK STATE HISTORY.

HE WAS REGARDED BY MANY AS THE MOST POWERFUL PERSON IN ALBANY, AND YES, THAT INCLUDES ANY GOVERNOR HE SERVED WITH.

BUT IN 2018 HE'S BEEN ALMOST FORGOTTEN.

HIS NAME RARELY MENTIONED IN THE HALLWAYS OF THE CAPITAL.

THE SAME GOES FOR THE FORMER REPUBLICAN LEADER OF THE SENATE, DEAN SKELLIS, HIMSELF ARRESTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES, FOUR MONTHS OF HIS FELLOW LEGISLATIVE LEADER.

BOTH WERE TRIED, FOUND GUILTY, HAD THEIR CONVICTIONS OVERTURNED, AND THEN TRIED AGAIN WITH THE SAME RESULT.

NOW, SURELY YOU WOULD EXPECT SWIFT ACTION TO BE TAKEN BY THE GOVERNOR AND BOTH CHAMBERS AFTER SUCH A SHOCKING DOUBLE DOWNFALL LIKE THIS.

AFTER ALL, THE ARREST OF ONE LEGISLATOR CASTS A BAD SHADOW ON EVERY LAWMAKER.

BUT THE LEGACY OF THEIR DOWNFALL, RIGHT NOW AT LEAST, IS SILENCE.

NO MAJOR ANTI CORRUPTION LEGISLATION HAS BEEN PASSED BY EITHER POLITICAL PARTY IN POWER AT THE CAPITAL.

NOT FOR LAWMAKERS, NOR HAS THERE BEEN ANY ADDITIONAL OVERSIGHT OF THE GOVERNOR'S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS WHICH HAVE COME UNDER THE SCRUTINY SINCE THE CONVICTION OF HIS FORMER TOP AIDE JOE PERCOCO AND ARRESTS AND GUILTY VERDICTS, INCLUDING THE FORMER HEAD OF THE SUNY POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE.

SENATE DEMOCRATS, NOW AS THEY GAIN CONTROL AFTER THE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS, WHICH MANY THINK IS POSSIBLE, WE CAN SEE IF THEY OFFER UP THE SAME BILLS.

BUT WITH THE LEGISLATURE GONE FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR THERE IS LITTLE CHANCE THAT HAPPENS.

SO DESPITE THE ARRESTS AND CONVICTIONS OF ALL OF THESE INDIVIDUALS IN THE LAST THREE YEARS, INCLUDING SHELDON SILVER WHO NOW AWAITS HIS SENTENCING, THE RESPONSE FROM ALBANY HAS BEEN DEAFENING SILENCE.

IN ALBANY FOR 'METROFOCUS,' I'M MATT RYAN.

> GOVERNOR CUOMO'S TWO-TERM TENURE HAS COINCIDED WITH THESE TRIALS.

MIGHT COME WITH INCREASED SCRUTINY WITH ELECTION TIME.

BUT THE INCREASED CORRUPTION APPEARS TO BE SOMETHING THE GOVERNOR IS BRUSHING OFF.

HE STATED, QUOTE, THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A SUGGESTION I DID I DIDN'T GO WRONG.

THE GOVERNOR AND LAWMAKE HAVE FAILED TO ADOPT PROPOSED MEASURES WHICH WOULD TOUGHEN STATE OVERSIGHT OF STATE CONTRACTS AND APPOINT AN INDEPENDENT MONITOR FOR ETHICS AND ELECTION LAWS.

WHY?

WELL, IT'S A BIT PUZZLING.

FOR THAT WE TURN TO BLARE HORNER, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP AND NONPARTISAN WATCHDOG HOPEFULLY FOR THOUGHTS AND ANSWERS.

THANKS FOR BEING HERE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

THE NOTION OF CORRUPTION IN ALBANY IS SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN FLOATED FOR LITERALLY DECADES.

THAT'S RIGHT.

IT'S BECOME A PUNCHLINE FOR SOME COMEDIANS HERE.

WITH THAT AS A BACKDROP, ARE YOU SURPRISED BY THE NUMBER OF ACTUAL CONVICTIONS WE'VE SEEN TAKE PLACE IN THE LAST COUPLE YEARS.

I'VE BEEN WORKING IN ALBANY SINCE 1984.

THE CORRUPTION, YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, HAS BEEN A PROBLEM FOREVER.

AND IT'S SORT OF LIKE GRAVITY, ALMOST A -- YOU KNOW, A FORCE OF NATURE IN THE WAY POLITICS GETS DONE.

BUT I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE WHAT'S HAPPENED IN THE MOST RECENT, LET'S SAY, FIVE YEARS OR SO.

WHEN U.S.

ATTORNEY PRIPARARA DECIDED TO FOCUS ON ALBANY, HE HAS BROUGHT A NUMBER OF CASES, DOZENS, LITERALLY DOZENS OF CASES TO A HEAD.

AND THE HIGH PROFILE ONES YOU JUST MENTIONED, THE TOP LEADERS IN THE LEGISLATURE, TOP AIDES TO THE GOVERNOR, NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED.

AND IT'S ASTONISHING TO ME THAT THERE'S BEEN SO LITTLE REACTION FROM EITHER THE EXECUTIVE OR THE LEGISLATURE ON WHAT SHOULD BE DONE.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

START WITH THE EXECUTIVES AND THEN GET TO THE LEGISLATORS.

WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN WHAT MOST PEOPLE AGREE HAS BEEN VERY LITTLE REACTION ON THE PART OF THE GOVERNOR AND THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE.

WE'RE SPECULATING A BIT.

POP PSYCHOLOGY APPROACH TO IT.

THEY'VE MADE A POLITICAL CALCULATION THAT THEY'RE NOT GOING TO PAY A PRICE FOR NOT DOING ANYTHING.

BECAUSE, AGAIN, WE SHOULD REENFORCE WHAT THE GOVERNOR SAID, NOTHING HAS TARGETED HIM AT ALL.

IT'S BEEN LEGISLATORS HERE.

THAT'S RIGHT.

AND IT'S IMPORTANT WE KEEP THAT IN MIND.

NONE OF THE LEADERS HAVE BEEN IMPLICATED.

THE CURRENT LEADERS.

THIS IS THE LAST BUNCH THAT WENT OFF AND THE GOVERNOR'S TOP AIDES.

BUT THEY ARE, YOU KNOW, IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS, I THINK, WHERE THEY'RE LOOKING NOT TO ADD TOO MUCH OXYGEN TO THE FIRE.

THE GOVERNOR KNOWS HE'S GOING TO GET -- HE'S GOING TO HEAR FROM IT FROM HIS CHALLENGERS, THE REPUBLICAN CHALLENGER, THE INDEPENDENT CHALLENGER, IN PARTICULAR, HAVE REALLY BEEN FORCEFUL ON THE ISSUE OF CORRUPTION, EVEN AS PRIMARY CHALLENGERS TALKED ABOUT IT AS AN ISSUE.

BUT THE GOVERNOR, I THINK, AND THE LEGISLATIVE LEADERS ARE NOT WILLING TO ADD OXYGEN TO THAT FIRE.

AND BY NOT TALKING ABOUT, OTHER ISSUES COME UP, ALL OF THE ANTICS THAT GO DOWN ON WASHINGTON TO DISTRACT THE PUBLIC FROM WHAT'S GOING ON IN ALBANY.

THEY'RE JUST SORT OF HOPING THE STORM WILL BLOW BY AND NO ONE WILL HAVE TO PAY A PRICE.

WHAT ARE SOME PROPOSALS FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE THAT ARE THINGS THE LEGISLATURE AND GOVERNOR SHOULD BE LOOKING AT?

IN A NORMAL FUNCTIONING DEMOCRACY THERE WOULD BE HEARINGS, PROPOSALS WOULD BE ADVANCED.

WE'VE LOOKED AT THINGS, AND GIVEN, AS YOU MENTIONED, THE SPEAKER -- THE SPORMER SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY, TOP AIDES TO THE GOVERNOR, THERE'S NO ONE SILVER BULLET TO THIS.

THERE'S A LOT OF PROBLEMS ACROSS THE BOARD.

AND WHILE THE GOVERNOR IS RIGHT THAT HE HASN'T BEEN IMPLICATED IN ANYTHING, HE'S WRONG TO SAY THAT THEREFORE NOTHING SHOULD HAPPEN BECAUSE HOW COULD YOU HAVE A SYSTEM WHERE THOSE CRIMES OCCURRED, AND IT TAKES FEDERAL PROSECUTORS TO COME IN AND DEAL WITH IT?

SO WE'VE ARGUED FOR PROPOSALS TO STRENGTHEN THE HAND OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER, NEW YORK HAS A SEPARATELY ELECTED COMPTROLLER IN ITS CONSTITUTION.

WHY?

IT'S THAT THE NEW YORKERS WANT AN INDEPENDENT FISCAL WATCHDOG.

THE GOVERNOR COMES IN IN 2011, TRIMS THE POWERS BACK OF THE COMPTROLLER, OPERATES IN THESE QUASI SECRET DEVELOPMENT, AND WE'VE HAD CORRUPTION.

END THE SECRECY, ENHANCE ACCOUNTABILITY, ENHANCE INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT ON THE CONTRACTING SIDE.

ON THE LEGISLATIVE SIDE OF THE PROBLEM, THE ISSUES THERE ARE ABOUT USING YOUR PUBLIC OFFICE FOR YOUR PRIVATE GAIN.

YOU NEED INDEPENDENT ETHICS WATCHDOG, LIMITS ON OUTSIDE INCOME, AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE CHANGES AS A BEGINNING START.

AS ALWAYS, OUR CONVERSATIONS WITH YOU ALWAYS PROVIDE US SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT.

AND SOMETHING TO FOCUS ON.

OUR HOPE IS WE'LL GET YOU BACK SOON AND SEE IF ANY OF THESE THINGS ARE HAPPENING.

FINGERS ARE CROSSED.

BLARE, ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE YOU, YOU BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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