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NYSNYS NEWS: Business as usual at the Capitol as replacement formally seated at same time Sheldon Silver gets 12 years in prison, fines and penalties totally nearly $7 million.
NYSNYS NEWS: Business as usual at the Capitol as replacement formally seated at same time Sheldon Silver gets 12 years in prison, fines and penalties totally nearly $7 million.

By Kyle Hughes

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 3) -- On the same day ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver received 12 years in prison, it was business as usual at the Capitol Tuesday, with lawmakers swearing in his replacement and the successor to another legislator turned felon, ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

The surreal turn of events drew online comparisons to both "The Wire" and "The Godfather," and came the day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended months of silence on a expanding criminal investigation involving his inner circle and state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"This is the ending of, I'd say, a dark chapter for the Assembly and we have to get back to life," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) told reporters. Earlier, Heastie presided over the formal seating of Assembly member Alice Cancel (D-Manhattan). She was elected to the Assembly on April 19 with the help of Silver and his former top aide, whose husband is in prison for stealing $9 million from a Jewish charity for the poor.

Also seated Tuesday was ex-Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor who won the conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. Kaminsky won the Skelos seat on Long Island. Skelos is due to be sentenced later this month.

Silver showed no sign of emotion after sentence was handed down. "I believe in this justice system and will pursue the remedies," he said in a video posted online taken outside the courthouse.

"Today's stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver's long career of corruption," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Cuomo remained secluded in New York City Tuesday, the day after he was peppered with questions about subpoenas served on his former top aide and campaign manager, Joseph Percoco, who is under investigation for taking money from entities with business interests before the state. "You’re in the private sector, you can do whatever you want to do," Cuomo said. "So there would be no reason to say, 'Well, who did you represent?' "

Cuomo said he never asked Percoco who he was taking money from during the period in 2014 when he went off the state payroll to serve as Cuomo's campaign manager. Cuomo has described Percoco as a brother, and said Monday night his former aide was "distraught."

The subpoenas came from Bharara, who was in U.S. District Court in Manhattan Tuesday to watch Silver, 72, being sentenced to prison. Silver was also ordered to forfeit $5 million in bribes he took and was fined $1.75 million.

The cascading scandals prompted NYPIRG and the League of Women Voters to hold simultaneous press conferences Tuesday in New York City and Albany to call for tightening of state laws on ethics, outside income, campaign donations, and other areas.

NYPIRG's Blair Horner termed it the "mushrooming and seemingly unending ethics controversies and scandals that have plagued the state Capitol."

"It's pretty clear from the latest polling, you've all seen it this morning, the overwhelming majority -- in fact it may be over 100 percent -- of New Yorkers think that ethics reform is badly needed at the state Capitol," Horner said. "The governor has latent public support, overwhelming public support, for change to be put in place ... it shouldn't be low bar, small bore ethics reforms. It should be big and comprehensive."

"This is a moment in history and the governor has the public support and bully pulpit to help make it happen."

Horner was referring to Siena Poll out Tuesday that found 97 percent of New Yorkers said the Legislature should pass ethics reforms before the session ends in June.

The advocacy groups urged passage of laws to put limits on outside income of legislators, close a campaign finance LLC loophole that lets wealthy businesses evade campaign donation limits, reduce the amounts that can be given to political committee, end "pay to play" donations by businesses seeking state contracts, and completely revamp JCOPE, the state's ethics and lobbying watchdog agency.