Jury finds Dean Skelos, son guilty in corruption retrial

Former State Senate majority leader used influence to help secure jobs for son

A jury found Dean Skelos, pictured, and his son, Adam, guilty Tuesday after his corruption retrial.
A jury found Dean Skelos, pictured, and his son, Adam, guilty Tuesday after his corruption retrial.
Matthew D'Onofrio/Herald

A jury found former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, guilty on all counts Tuesday in their corruption retrial in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court. The four-week proceeding wrapped up July 13, and the jury had deliberated for nearly three days.

The father and son from Rockville Centre were convicted on corruption, extortion and conspiracy charges in 2015, after the elder Skelos allegedly used his political power to secure work for Adam at no- or low-show jobs. The two returned to court on June 19 after their convictions were overturned last year.

Sentencing for the retrial was reportedly scheduled for Oct. 24.

Dean, 70, and Adam, 36, were sentenced to five and six and a half years in prison, respectively, in their first trial. They have been out on bail since last August, when a court order by U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood released them because there was “a substantial question whether jurors received the correct instructions to make an accurate ruling.”

Last September, an appeals panel cited a 2016 Supreme Court decision involving former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, which narrowed the definition of an “official act” in corruption cases. The decision forced the prosecution in the retrial to demonstrate that Skelos, once considered among New York’s most powerful elected leaders, exercised formal powers in seeking favors for his son.

Former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara prosecuted the original case, charging that Skelos used his influence to secure a storm-water mitigation contract between Nassau County and Arizona-based company AbTech, for which his son worked. He allegedly netted more than $200,000 in payments for his son from AbTech, as well as $100,000 in health benefits and a $78,000 salary from Roslyn-based Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers, a medical malpractice insurer for which Adam did no or little work.

Part of the retrial focused on a $20,000 check that Adam accepted from Charles Dorego, a top executive at Glenwood Management, a real estate development company that Adam allegedly did no work for. The payment was from a title insurance company. Other prosecution witnesses included Anthony Bonomo, chief executive officer of PRI, and Bjornulf White, Adam’s boss at AbTech.

“I did not corrupt my office, and I never intended to,” defense attorney Robert Gage Jr. said, re-emphasizing Dean’s testimony during closing arguments last week.

Adam’s attorney, John Kenney, argued that the prosecution’s claims revolved around Adam getting a job, which the defense contended was “not corruption.” Kenney said that while Adam was “not the ideal employee,” he showed up and tried his best, despite not necessarily deserving the “cushy” paycheck. At one point, Adam’s attorney described him as “troubled,” and labeled him a “28-year-old child,” to which Adam shook his head.

Kenney recognized that Adam was unqualified for the jobs. He added that Adam got the jobs “because his name is Skelos,” but noted that there is “nothing wrong with that access.”

Gage argued that Dean Skelos had no power over the companies involved in the case, and that he did not back any legislation to benefit his son’s employers.

He also called the federal government’s argument “desperate” and sarcastically labeled the prosecutors “talented.” As for the charges, Gage said that Skelos admitted to helping his son, but that there was no criminal exchange, or “corrupt trade.” Dean was expressionless throughout both arguments.

Adam told a reporter outside the courthouse on July 11 that he thought the retrial was “going all right.” His father said he thought the case “speaks the truth,” and added that he was eager for the trial to end so he could return to his family.

On July 12, Prosecutor Thomas McKay told the jury that the case was not about Dean the “affable” family man, but rather Dean the former Senate majority leader. “This is the Dean that really matters,” he noted.

McKay also emphasized Skelos’s power to the jury, noting that he decided which bills came to a vote, and that he had the ability to block legislation if desired. Additionally, McKay said, the three men who helped Skelos’s son did business in New York.

After the verdict, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky said in a statement that the state must pass laws to empower local prosecutors and strengthen anti-corruption laws. “When the Skelos case was reversed earlier this year, it gave people the sinking feeling that one could get away with anything in Albany,” Kaminsky said. “Thankfully, that proves not to be the case. However, this trial once again laid bare how broken and dirty Albany has become, and how far we have to go to reform it.”