NY Majority Leader Guilty of Federal Corruption

NewYorkDean G. Skelos, the former majority leader of the New York Senate, and his son were found guilty of federal corruption charges on Friday, a quick and devastating follow-up punch to the State Capitol, which has seen two entrenched leaders convicted and removed from office in less than two weeks.

The jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan took roughly eight hours over two days to reach its verdict against Senator Skelos, 67, and his son, Adam B. Skelos, 33, finding them guilty of all eight bribery, extortion and conspiracy counts. The Skeloses were undone by the perversion of a simple fatherly impulse: There was little that the elder Skelos would not do, or ask, for his son. They used the father’s position as majority leader to pressure a Manhattan developer, an environmental technology company and a medical malpractice insurer to provide Adam Skelos with roughly $300,000 via consulting work, a no-show job and a direct payment of $20,000.

As the verdict was read, Dean Skelos’s brother, Peter Skelos, held Dean’s wife, Gail, as she began to sob. The senator sat stone still with his jaw set and his chin thrust out; Adam Skelos shook his head and glanced over his shoulders. After the last guilty count was read, Dean Skelos briefly put his arm around his son’s shoulder and gave him a little pat.

The convictions of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver were a resounding victory for Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office prosecuted both cases and whose work has led to the conviction of 11 legislators in six years. Not long after the verdict was given, a Twitter post went out on Mr. Bharara’s account: “How many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve?” Nearly simultaneously, in Albany, a state worker removed Mr. Skelos’s name from his office window. Before the decision was announced, Adam Skelos said that his father-in-law had died on Thursday; he said in an interview that the death was unexpected and that an autopsy was to be performed to determine the cause of death. Neither Dean Skelos nor Adam Skelos spoke after the verdict, declining to address reporters as they walked from the courthouse up Mulberry Street, the father with his arm around his son’s shoulder.

“We are obviously very disappointed with the verdict,” the senator’s lawyer, G. Robert Gage Jr., said outside the courthouse. “The next step is post-trial motions. We intend to pursue them vigorously.” Since his arrest on May 4, Mr. Skelos has insisted that he and his son had done nothing wrong, repeatedly telling reporters that they would be found “not only not guilty but innocent,” and professing his confidence and respect in the United States judicial system. The trials of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver illustrated broad themes of Albany’s dysfunction. Evidence and testimony showed how some lawmakers can wield their considerable power to extort benefits for themselves or others; how the weak enforcement of lax financial disclosure requirements gives legislators ample opportunity to mask illegal payments as outside income; how moneyed real estate interests spend millions of dollars in campaign contributions to influence legislation; and how power is concentrated in the hands of the so-called three men in a room: the legislative leaders and the governor. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a statement that the “convictions of former Speaker Silver and former Majority Leader Skelos should be a wake-up call for the Legislature, and it must stop standing in the way of needed reforms.”

“The justice system worked today,” Mr. Cuomo continued. “However, more must be done and will be pursued as part of my legislative agenda.” The governor has made similar pledges before, but his efforts have ultimately led to changes that have been faulted for not being stringent enough. In the trial of Mr. Skelos and his son, the testimony detailed how the senator’s power was leveraged in three separate schemes, aimed at pressuring companies — all of them dependent on legislation that the senator in some measure controlled — to provide benefits to Adam Skelos. Over 11 days of testimony, jurors heard from 20 witnesses, who guided them through more than 700 exhibits, including hundreds of emails, documents and other materials. Prosecutors also played roughly four dozen secretly recorded telephone calls for the panel of eight women and four men — many between the senator and his son. The conversations included disclosures that, at times, were raw, embarrassing and even ludicrous.

Glenwood Management, a New York City real estate developer, was directed to funnel a $20,000 payment to Adam Skelos, and to help get him consulting payments at AbTech Industries, an environmental technology company, officials said. Another company, Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers, gave Adam Skelos what amounted to a no-show job.

In his closing argument, one of the prosecutors, Rahul Mukhi, reminded the jury that there was no dispute that Adam Skelos had received the payments and that the senator had taken official actions on behalf of the companies that made them.