By MICHAEL ODMARK & DANIEL STEIN-SAYLES
Dean Skelos, former majority leader of the New York State Senate, was sentenced on Thursday in Manhattan Federal Court to five years in prison, marking the second time in a week that a towering figure in Albany politics heard the gavel fall.
Skelos and his son Adam B. Skelos were convicted of eight counts of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy. The son got six and 1/2 years. The sentencing came only a few days after the Republican leader’s Democratic counterpart in the State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, received an even stiffer term of 12 years in the same courthouse.
While serving as the majority leader, the elder Skelos pressured several companies to give his son no-show jobs and direct payments totaling profits of over $300,000.
“Dean Skelos knew better and had so many opportunities to do the right thing,” said prosecuting U.S. Attorney Jason Masimore.
The terms of the sentence were less than many expected, especially after Silver’s fate was sealed. Even so, Judge Kimba Wood echoed Masimore’s criticism of the elder Skelos, saying that when he became the majority leader, “You began to ignore your moral compass.”
Skelos also received eight years of probation and a fine of $500,000. Additionally, a forfeiture of $334,120 was to be paid jointly by the father and son.
“I am deeply remorseful for what has happened here,” said the former senator. “Somewhere along the way my judgment was clouded.” Twice he asked the judge to show mercy on his son.
Judge Wood called Adam Skelos’s actions “appalling” and credited his father’s record of public service for the lower penalty.
Adam Skelos, 33, was adopted and has a troubled history with drugs and alcohol.
“I believe that with appropriate treatment…Adam can be a more productive member of society,” said Adam Skelos’s lead attorney Christopher Coniff. The judge recommended drug treatment for Adam while in custody.
“I have had my struggles in life, but realize I cannot use them as an excuse,” said the younger Skelos in an emotional testimony. “When I was arrested with my dad, I watched the destruction of the only person who showed me unconditional love.”
The front two rows of the courtroom were filled with family and friends, many of whom wept throughout Dean and Adam Skelos’s somber final statements.
They reacted strongly to the judge’s decision. Outside the courtroom, one of Dean Skelo’s nephews took a cell phone from a reporter’s hands and threw it across the street.
Over the course of the six-week trial, Judge Wood received over 200 letters in support of Dean and Adam Skelos. Although most were for the former senator, some also were written on behalf of Adam. The judge noted that one in particular—from the younger Skelos’s ex-wife—was “very moving.”
Adam’s lawyer pushed the judge to take into account his battles with drugs and alcohol, saying that, “Adam understands that he needs to be punished…this had been an incredibly humiliating time for him.”
Although Skelos’s accomplishments as a senator were acknowledged by both the prosecution and the judge, they came down hard in closing statements. The judge told the former Republican senator that he caused immeasurable damage to New York, and his crimes exceed most other similar cases—with the notable exception of Silver.
The Skelos case came in the wake of Silver’s conviction of seven counts of federal corruption. He was given a sentence of 12 years in prison for schemes through which he obtained almost $4 million. The effects of these crimes are similar even if the dollar amounts are different, said the judge.
In a statement on his website following the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that the nearly simultaneous convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos have “no precedent. And while Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better.”
Although they both received sentences, neither Dean of Adam Skelos will be behind bars anytime soon. Both defendants were expected to appeal. No surrender date was named.