Richard T. Silberman, onetime governor's aide and wealthy financier, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison Monday after saying he was sorry he had laundered cash he believed was drug money.
In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving said it was gratifying to hear Silberman express remorse for the first time in the complex case.
But it mattered more, Irving said, that Silberman, who "achieved more than most men could ever have dreamed of," had turned to crime, betraying himself, his wife--San Diego County Supervisor Susan Golding--his family, and his community.
"It boggles my mind," Irving said.
Irving chose the prison sentence prosecutors had recommended after a plea bargain struck last month in which Silberman pleaded guilty to a single felony conspiracy count. Silberman was convicted of another felony count--a technical currency violation--in June after a two-month trial and could have received up to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors had recommended a $75,000 fine. Irving put off that decision, saying he needed details of Silberman's financial status and knew only that Silberman said he was ruined financially, with debts of $1.8 million.
The judge said he was likely to decide in the next few days whether to fine Silberman, but said he was inclined only to make Silberman pay the financial costs of incarceration, which he termed substantial. Irving said he would recommend that Silberman be assigned to a minimum-security prison camp, naming the facility at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, because that would make it easier for visits from San Diego.
Silberman, 61, a former aide to former Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., had been charged with seven felony counts in an alleged scheme to launder $300,000 in cash that an undercover FBI agent had portrayed as Colombian drug profits. He stood impassively at a podium Monday as Irving imposed the sentence.
Just before being sentenced, Silberman said that, in "this hour of my deep remorse," he was "extremely sorry for the crime I have committed."
Golding called the case a "tragedy of a very human nature. The only thing I can say is that when someone you love is in trouble, you do the best to stand by them."
Four other men have been charged in the complex case, two of whom already have pleaded guilty to a single felony count. The two others--including reputed mobster Chris Petti, 63, of San Diego--are due to stand trial Oct. 3.
Jack Norman Myers, a Malibu investment banker accused of being a courier in the alleged scheme, was to be sentenced Monday. Irving postponed sentencing until Nov. 19--presumably after the trial for Petti and Darryl Nakatsuka, 43, of Los Angeles, a security guard also accused of being a courier.
Prosecutors have indicated that they do not intend to call Silberman to testify against Petti or Nakatsuka.
Silberman had been a key player in statewide Democratic politics since the mid-1970s, serving as Brown's chief of staff and, among other positions, as Brown's secretary of the Business and Transportation Agency.
Silberman achieved wealth in business, particularly in banking and fast-food ventures. He was a general partner during the early years of growth at the Jack in the Box restaurant chain.
His most recent venture, a San Diego-based gold mining firm, Yuba Natural Resources, consistently had trouble paying its bills, prosecutors said.
Silberman was arrested April 7, 1989, at a Mission Bay hotel and, according to the FBI, confessed to laundering the $300,000 and said he was searching for funds to save his financially troubled mining firm.