Jury Finds Skelos, Son Guilty On All Charges
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A disgraced New York State senator and his son are facing jail time after two trials returned two guilty verdicts. A jury on Tuesday found former New York Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, guilty on all charges stemming from a corruption case which had previously been overturned and ordered for retrial.
A jury in federal court in Manhattan deliberated over the course of four days before reaching the verdict. The top count, extortion, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison but they are likely to receive far less time.
The trial was one of the most important in a spate of recent cases that have cast a harsh light on corruption in Albany. Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was convicted in May of corruption.
The once-powerful Republican was accused of using the clout of his office to pressure businessmen into giving no-show jobs to his son. Prosecutors said the jobs came with big salaries and required relatively little work, and amounted to bribes.
Prosecutors in the Skelos trial had told jurors that the father and son were "partners in crime" who showed such blatant disregard for conflicts of interest that they broke the law. They accused the pair of extorting roughly $300,000 in payments from wealthy business executives who were dependent on the Long Island senator's backing on legislation benefiting their financial interests.
The defense claimed Skelos was just trying to help his struggling son find employment. Defense lawyers say the senator never took official action for any of the businessmen.
The companies felt "constant pressure from Dean Skelos — the fear he would punish them by using his official power if they didn't pay up," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McKay said in closing arguments. "They were the targets of the Skelos family shakedown."
The evidence included a wiretap recording of a phone call in 2014 in which Skelos boasted to his son that in his position as Senate leader he would "control everything," including which bills would come to the floor for a vote.
"Everybody's going to know who calls the shots, Adam," he said. "Believe me."
Skelos, 70, testified in his own defense, claiming there was never a quid-pro-quo expected when he reached out on behalf of Adam, 36.
"I didn't see a problem with it," he said. "I asked a lot of people to help my son."
Among the government witnesses was Anthony Bonomo, an insurance company CEO who described how Adam Skelos stopped turning up for a $78,000-a-year sales job he gave him. Even so, he didn't consider firing him because he "didn't want Adam's problem to become a wedge for our legislative pursuits in Albany. I just didn't want to have a problem with the senator."
Another witness, title company partner Tom Dwyer, testified that he was the bag man for a real estate developer who decided to give Adam Skelos a $20,000 bribe disguised as a referral fee for title insurance. He said he delivered the check over lunch on Long Island in 2013.
Robert Gage, who represented Dean Skelos, said in his closing arguments that the government witnesses weren't credible because they were testifying under non-prosecution agreements.
Bonomo, who knew Skelos socially for several years, "was a friend looking out for a friend's son," Gage said. "There's no extortion or bribery going on."
Prosecutors pointed to the wiretap recordings as further proof the defendants knew they were breaking the law and were afraid of getting caught. In one, Skelos could be heard advising his son about the need for discretion amid the state capital's ongoing corruption scandal, saying, "Right now we're in dangerous times, Adam."
The exchange showed the defendants clearly were paranoid about being recorded, said another prosecutor, Edward Diskant. "They should have been. They were talking about criminal conduct on the phone."
"Two juries have now twice convicted Dean Skelos of using his position in government to extort favors for his family in return for taxpayer funded resources. Case closed," said Associate Director of Common Cause/NY Sarah Goff in statement.
The father and son were convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy in 2015 but the convictions were overturned after a Supreme Court decision narrowed the definition of political corruption. Sentencing for their latest conviction is set for October 24th. The duo faces more than 100 years in prison, but are expected to receive far less thanks to court sentencing guidelines.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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