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Former Senate leader Dean Skelos, son sentenced to prison

Karen DeWitt

Former New York Senate leader Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay more than $800,000 in restitution and fines Thursday after his conviction on corruption charges. His son Adam got six-and-a-half years.

Despite pleas from the two men and their lawyers that they did good works and were very sorry, Judge Kimba Wood told Dean Skelos and his son Adam that they “caused immeasurable damage to New Yorkers’ confidence in the integrity of government” and ordered prison terms. Dean Skelos must also pay more than $800,000 in fines and restitution.

The Skeloses were convicted last December of obtaining  hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and carrying out extortion schemes. Prosecutors said they essentially monetized the elder Skelos' influence with the real estate industry and the medical insurance industry to obtain a string of no-show jobs for his son, Adam, who had struggled to find a steady job to support his family and finance a hefty mortgage.

On May 3, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver received 12 years in prison after his corruption conviction. 

There are also federal probes involving a former top aide and a close associate of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, as well as investigations into some acts by New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio’s administration.

Susan Lerner, with Common Cause, says it’s astounding that so far, Cuomo and lawmakers have been unable to agree on any ethics reforms to clean up the corruption. She predicts that without changes, more lawmakers may have to face consequences.

“We’re going to see more indictments,” said Lerner. “We’re going to see more legislators and members of the executive (branch) under investigation and on trial.”

US Attorney Preet Bharara, who successfully prosecuted the two leaders and who now is investigating the former Cuomo associates, said in statement that the two cases “have no precedent” and that “the people of New York deserve better.”

Bharara also took a thinly veiled shot at Cuomo, saying “the most effective corruption investigations are those that are truly independent and not in danger of either interference or premature shutdown.”

Cuomo abruptly shuttered his own Moreland Act commission on corruption. That act spurred a probe that resulted in no proof of wrongdoing. Cuomo also has begun his own investigation into his former top aide, Joe Percoco and a lobbyist, Todd Howe, closely associated with his family.

Cuomo, in a statement, said the sentences for Dean and Adam Skelos show “there is zero tolerance for those who use public service for private gain.” He says “the guilty were punished and justice prevailed.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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