Dean Skelos Is Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison in Corruption Case
By BENJAMIN WEISER and VIVIAN YEEMAY 12, 2016
Dean G. Skelos, the once powerful Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate who was convicted with his son in December on federal corruption charges, was sentenced on Thursday to five years in prison.
The sentencing of Mr. Skelos was the second instance in 10 days in which a former senior New York lawmaker was sent to prison for abusing his office. It concluded an extraordinary chapter during which two trials, held a block apart at almost the same time last year, exposed a culture of kickbacks, secret deals and nepotism in the State Capitol in Albany.
But while the crimes and the 12-year prison term of Sheldon Silver, the former Democratic speaker of the State Assembly, exceeded those of Mr. Skelos and his son, Adam B. Skelos, the Skeloses’ trial stood out for the gritty, unvarnished look it offered of the personal and political dealings of a family immersed in Albany’s back channels.
The evidence against the Skeloses, who were convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy, laid bare schemes that were remarkable for both their brazenness and their familial motivation: The father seemed willing to do anything for his son.
Before he was sentenced, Dean Skelos asked the judge in the case, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court in Manhattan, to show mercy to his son. “Somehow I let things go off the rails, and for that I apologize to Adam,” Mr. Skelos said. “I love Adam and pray that we have better days together.” Adam Skelos was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
The former senator also expressed remorse for his actions. “Somewhere along the way,” he said, “my judgment became clouded.”
The sentencings of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver made them the latest in an almost unending parade of disgraced New York lawmakers — elected officials tempted by greed and brought down by prosecutors, most notably Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.
Mr. Bharara, whose office is one of several agencies investigating possible wrongdoing connected to the administrations of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, released a statement on Thursday that took a barely veiled swipe at Mr. Cuomo’s decision in 2014 to disband an anticorruption panel, the Moreland Commission, less than a year after he impaneled it.
The cases involving Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver, Mr. Bharara said, “show — and history teaches — that the most effective corruption investigations are those that are truly independent and not in danger of either interference or premature shutdown.” He added that while the men deserved their sentences, “the people of New York deserve better.”
Before sentencing the Skeloses, Judge Wood scolded the former senator for violating his “unique position of power and trust.”
The judge seemed to acknowledge the spate of graft scandals, saying she wanted “other politicians to learn from this sentence that public corruption will be punished.” The prison term, however, was less than half of what prosecutors had asked for.
Judge Wood also imposed a $500,000 fine — the amount sought by the government — on the former senator, as well as a $334,120 forfeiture to be paid jointly by him and his son. Prosecutors had noted that Dean Skelos had built a net worth of more than $2 million during his nearly three decades in the Senate, and had also applied for a state pension of almost $96,000 a year.
While the judge cited some of Dean Skelos’s accomplishments and service to his constituents, it was clear that she found few redemptive qualities in his son. She seemed appalled by wiretapped conversations that she said exposed his “bullying,” “cynicism” and “extreme” physical threats — tactics, she said, “more usually associated with professional criminals.”
“You appeared to have no moral compass,” Judge Wood told Adam Skelos, 33. “I think you did everything you could to monetize your father’s position for your personal benefit.”
At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that the elder Mr. Skelos, 68, used his position as majority leader to pressure a real estate developer, an environmental technology company and a medical malpractice insurer — firms that depended on his support as senator for legislation that benefited their interests — to provide Adam Skelos with consulting work, a direct payment of $20,000 and a job that required him to do virtually no work.
Lawyers for the Skeloses had asked Judge Wood to spare them from prison and sentence them to probation and community service. But on Thursday, G. Robert Gage Jr., one of the former senator’s lawyers, suggested instead that his client receive a short prison sentence.
Mr. Gage suggested that the underlying theme of the case was “this father-son emotional relationship.”
“To his great credit as a person as well as a parent, Dean always stuck by Adam,” Mr. Gage said, “perhaps to a fault.”
Indeed, during the trial, witnesses told the jury that Adam Skelos essentially held a no-show job. On the rare occasions when he did go to work, his behavior was troublesome. When a supervisor confronted him, Mr. Skelos threatened to “smash” his head, and said that men like him “couldn’t shine” Mr. Skelos’s shoes.
Secretly recorded conversations played for the jury exposed other unsavory aspects of Adam Skelos’s behavior. He could be heard on one recording speaking about how he concealed an extramarital affair from his wife. He said he planned to get a puppy for his wife because “she’ll find it easier to say O.K.” on the occasions when he stayed in a hotel after work, rather than returning home.
“The things I do to stay out,” Adam Skelos could be heard saying. He also said that he used the FaceTime app to talk with his mistress because “FaceTime doesn’t show up on a phone bill.”
In court on Thursday, Christopher P. Conniff, a lawyer for Adam Skelos, cited his client’s alcohol and drug dependency and noted that his wife, with whom he has two young sons with autism, had left him.
“The devastation that has been caused in part by his immaturity and at times arrogance,” Mr. Conniff said, “is probably going to be a greater harm to him than frankly any sentence.”
Adam Skelos was impassive until he rose to address the court. Then, his voice breaking at times, he did what his father had done minutes before: ask for leniency, but not for himself.
“It was hard for me to sit through this case and come face to face with the person I was a few years ago,” Adam Skelos said, adding, “I’ve had my struggles in life, but now realize that I can’t use them as an excuse for my conduct.”
He closed, in part, by asking Judge Wood to “show leniency to my dad and not to me.”
When Adam Skelos returned to his seat, his father threw an arm around him and squeezed him; he kissed his father on the cheek.
Both men left the courthouse without comment.
Mr. Bharara’s office had sought much stiffer sentences, suggesting that an appropriate prison term for Dean Skelos would be about 12 to 15 years, and for Adam Skelos, about 10 to 12 years.
“You can’t argue that you rob a bank repeatedly over the course of years and you did it for your family,” a prosecutor, Jason A. Masimore, said on Thursday, adding that the evidence demonstrated that “Dean Skelos was strong-arming these victims and forcing them to pay.”
Dean Skelos, who stepped down from his leadership position after his arrest last May, automatically lost his seat in the Legislature upon being convicted.
Mr. Cuomo, in a brief statement, said the sentences “show there is zero tolerance for those who use public service for private gain.”
Judge Wood did not set a date for the two men to surrender to prison authorities, saying she would rule first on their lawyers’ request that they be allowed to remain free pending their appeals.
New York Lawmakers and Their Sentences
A list of the longest prison terms given to convicted former state officeholders in New York in recent years.
Defendant Sentence Year
William F. Boyland Jr., Assemblyman 168 months 2015
Sheldon Silver, Assembly speaker 144 months 2016
Daniel J. Halloran III, N.Y. City Councilman 120 months 2015
Brian M. McLaughlin, State Assemblyman 120 months* 2009
Carl Kruger, State Senator 84 months 2012
Malcolm A. Smith, State Senator 84 months 2015
Efraín González Jr., State Senator 84 months 2010
Anthony S. Seminerio, State Assemblyman 72 months 2010
Dean G. Skelos, State Senate majority leader 60 months 2016
Miguel Martinez, N.Y. City Councilman 60 months 2009
Pedro Espada Jr., State Senator 60 months 2013
Larry B. Seabrook, N.Y. City Councilman 60 months 2013
|Here is Laura Ahole giving an award to her fellow criminal Dean Skelos.|