New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, were both convicted of extorting bribes from businesses that lobbied the lawmaker following their month-long trial at Manhattan federal court.
After about eight hours of deliberations over a two-day span, a jury found the former top-elected Republican in the state and his son guilty Friday of extortion under color of official right, soliciting bribes and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.
“The swift convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos beg an important question—how many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve?” Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement following the verdict.
The verdict came 12 days after another jury convicted the former state Senate Majority Leader’s counterpart, ex-state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), of similar but unrelated corruption charges in Manhattan federal court. Like Silver, the senator’s attorney, Robert Gage, reportedly said he intends to appeal the verdict. Gage and Adam’s lawyer, Christopher Conniff, had argued that there was no crime committed and no quid pro quo was proven.
Before they resigned their leadership roles after their arrests, Silver and Skelos were two of the so-called “Three Men In A Room”—the third being Gov. Andrew Cuomo—that set the state’s legislative and budget agenda. Despite the back-to-back high-profile cases, state lawmakers have been reluctant to enact further ethics reforms.
Prosecutors said the senator—who will be expelled from his position following his conviction—pressured Roslyn-based medical malpractice firm Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers (PRI), New Hyde Park-based developer Glenwood Management and Arizona-based storm water filter manufacturer AbTech Industries for no-show jobs and payments for his son. The companies all had business before the state at the time.
Witnesses who took the stand described in detail how the senator and his son badgered them for favors. PRI gave Adam a job that he rarely showed up for and kept him on the payroll despite Adam threatening to bash his bosses head in for questioning his performance, according to testimony. Glenwood, eager to distance themselves from doing favors for a senator they lobbied, set Adam up with a job at AbTech and had a third party give Adam a $20,000 title insurance commission check despite not having performed any work for it, witnesses testified. And AbTech officials told the jury about how they were extorted into giving Adam a hefty raise under the threat of the senator and son killing the company’s chances at a $12 million Nassau County contract.
Witnesses who took the stand included: lobbyist and former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato (R-NY), who said he warned the senator and son about their conflicts; PRI CEO Anthony Bonomo, who said he feared firing Adam because he didn’t want a “problem in Albany”; and Chief Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker, who testified that he expedited payments to AbTech at the senator’s request—in addition to testifying that Walker himself is under federal investigation.
The senator’s replacement, state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Northport) issued a statement shortly after the verdict was announced.
“I am deeply saddened by today’s verdict,” he said. “As Senate Majority Leader, I take this situation very seriously and am determined to work with my fellow legislators to swiftly and completely restore the public trust.”
Cuomo echoed the sentiment.
“There can be no tolerance for those who use, and seek to use, public service for private gain,” the governor said in a statement. “The justice system worked today. However, more must be done and will be pursued as part of my legislative agenda. The convictions of former Speaker Silver and former Majority Leader Skelos should be a wakeup call for the legislature and it must stop standing in the way of needed reforms.”
Judge Kimba Wood is scheduled to sentence Dean and Adam on March 3. They face up to 20 years in prison.