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Give Sheldon Silver a vaccine and a cell

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Sheldon Silver was quietly returned to federal prison last week, two days after he was quietly released to go home. He was allowed the furlough while awaiting a decision on his request to spend the rest of his prison term at home.

The former state Assembly speaker is just eight months into a six-year sentence. He has fought paying the price for his actions every step of the way.

The proceedings of this latest appeal have not been made public, but last summer at his sentencing his lawyers pleaded that in prison he would be at risk of dying of COVID-19, given his age — now 77 — and his history of cancer and chronic kidney disease.

We sympathize with older people and incarcerated people, but in Silver’s case, get him his vaccine shots, some masks and hand sanitizer, and keep him where he belongs.

Anything less would not only be a miscarriage of justice; it would almost certainly boost every other corrupt politician’s hope of evading punishment.

Silver definitely shouldn’t be released ahead of other inmates whose crimes may have been predicated by hard lives. Silver was living the high life and had no reason to steal except pure greed. For two decades he was one of the three most powerful people in state government, and for nearly four decades he represented a wealthy Lower Manhattan district that included Wall Street. He had way more power than any politician should. He used it to direct our tax money to private entities via law firms he was associated with, charging a fee for himself with each pass-through. Over time he made about $4 million through these graft schemes, not even doing any legal work to earn it. It was a stunning example of corruption, even by Albany standards.

New Yorkers were disgusted by his actions, and they were also disgusted at how many times authorities let him slide. He was convicted in 2015 but managed to remain free for five years of appeals, which included dismissal of his first conviction and then a second trial, conviction and sentence.

New York’s public rightly sees Silver as a test case for political accountability — like Derek Chauvin for police accountability. If he can get away with it, then the worst players have defeated our justice system.

For two days last week, that’s what we were looking at. Thankfully, it didn’t last.

Our politicians don’t need any more reason to think they can get away with corrupt behavior.

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