Another powerful New York politician has been found guilty of extortion. Former Senate leader Dean Skelos, 67, and his 33-year-old son, Adam, were convicted yesterday afternoon at the Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.
This is the second conviction of a high-ranking New York politician within the month. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on November 30, 2015 on charges of bribery and accepting kickbacks, to the tune of $4 million. He does plan to appeal the verdict, reports ABC News.
Dean Skelos resigned his position as leader of the Senate when he was arrested last spring. Like Silver, he lost his legislative seat when he was convicted.
The New York Times reported, “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.”
He and his son were charged with and found guilty of eight counts of extortion, bribery, and conspiracy. Dean’s position as an influential politician was used to pressure three companies into giving his son work.
Adam was provided with about $300,000 plus other benefits. AbTech industries, an environmental technology company, gave him a consulting job; Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers gave him a $78,000 position on their staff, which he rarely showed up for; and Glenwood Management, a Manhattan real estate developer, paid him a lump sum of $20,000.
Apparently, there was nothing the father would not do for his son, who “prosecutors portrayed as an underachieving only child whose sense of entitlement knew no bounds,” reported Fox News.
Rahul Mukhi, one of the prosecutors, spoke to the jurors in his closing argument.
“The evidence you’ve heard over the last few weeks establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Senator Skelos got these payments for his son through his official powers, his official powers to make or break the companies that paid his son.”
G. Robert Gage, the Senator’s lawyer disagreed in his closing remarks, reported the New York Times.
“Senator Skelos did not sell his office. You can be a state senator, and you can be a father.”
The jury deliberated for about eight hours. As the verdict was read, Dean’s wife, Gail, began to weep. Dean himself was impassive, but after the last verdict was read, he put his hand on Adam’s shoulder.
According to Fox News, Gage spoke after the trial.
“We are obviously very disappointed with the verdict. The next step is post-trial motions. We intend to pursue them vigorously.”
Dean and Adam will be sentenced on March 3, 2016, by Judge Kimba M. Wood. On each count of the extortion and fraud charges, the pair face 20-years in prison. The bribe solicitation charges each come with a 10-year maximum sentence.
Calls for tougher ethics rules have already begun. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara released a statement today.
“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?”
The governor of New York seems to agree, the New York Times reported.
“[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.”
Referring to the guilty of extortion verdict, Mr. Cuomo continued.
“The justice system worked today. However, more must be done and will be pursued as part of my legislative agenda.”
Similar statements have been made before by the governor, but the changes so far have not been strict enough.
[Photo by Mathew Cavanaugh/Getty Images]