From Albany to Prison: Ex-Lawmakers on Life Behind Bars

There are a lot of “senators” in America’s federal prisons these days. In May, three more corrupt New York State lawmakers are expected to join the jumpsuited ranks, three more cautionary tales from a State Legislature with no apparent shortage of them.

There is Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and former Assembly speaker, who was convicted of abusing his office in return for nearly $4 million in kickbacks. There is Dean G. Skelos, a Republican and former Senate majority leader, who was found guilty of selling official favors for payments and jobs for his son. Convicted last fall in overlapping trials that sent Albany into upheaval, the two men are to be sentenced within 10 days of each other in May, with Mr. Silver’s sentencing scheduled first, on Tuesday.

And then there is John L. Sampson, all but eclipsed by the convictions of Mr. Silver and Mr. Skelos, who led the Senate Democrats for three and a half years. Mr. Sampson was convicted last year of trying to thwart an investigation into allegations that he had embezzled state funds. He is to be sentenced on May 19.

Like many of those convicted before them, Mr. Silver, Mr. Skelos and Mr. Sampson have asked for minimal or no prison time. Prosecutors, sentencing guidelines and recent history suggest they should not expect any leniency.

If interviews with four former lawmakers — two currently incarcerated and two who have been released — are a guide, the three men are in for a prolonged humbling. Their former colleagues tell of spiritual awakenings, physical survival and mental toughening. But what figures largest in these personal narratives — what they say has sustained them throughout — is the belief that they were wrongly prosecuted.

Contrition? What for?

Outside, their names are synonymous with scandal. Inside, they command a measure of respect.

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