Next up: Dean Skelos. The former majority leader of the New York State Senate is to be sentenced Thursday after his conviction on thuggish felonies that seem more appropriate to a mobster than the occupant of one of the state’s highest offices. The sentence should match that offense, and a fine alone won’t do it.
Skelos was convicted in December of abusing his position to financially benefit his son, Adam. Specifically, the elder Skelos was found to have intimidated business owners into giving his boy what amounted to no-show jobs to fund a lavish lifestyle. Both men were convicted on charges of conspiracy, extortion and soliciting bribes.
The crimes were decidedly more low brow than those of which Skelos’ former Assembly counterpart was convicted. Former Speaker Sheldon Silver was also convicted in December of enriching himself by abusing his office, and last week, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, ordered to forfeit $5.2 million in criminal proceeds and fined an additional $1.74 million.
The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, which prosecuted both Skeloses and Silver, has asked Judge Kimba Wood to sentence the former senator to a prison term of up to 15½ years and a fine of more than $350,000. Skelos has applied for his state pension of almost $96,000 a year. His lawyers, predictably, call for no prison time, but probation and community service. It’s a nice try.
The attorneys made their case arithmetically: Because the corruption of which Skelos was convicted covered only 12 percent of his career, his punishment should be similarly scaled. It doesn’t wash.
Skelos took knowing criminal advantage of the high public office he occupied to benefit a son too lazy or too greedy to work for the lifestyle he adopted. What is more, he did so knowing that corruption was a severe problem in New York State government and knowing that prosecutors were on the prowl.
He didn’t care. His disdain was complete. Prosecutors didn’t matter, constituents didn’t matter, the Senate didn’t matter, taxpayers across the state didn’t matter. What mattered was his ability to criminally abuse his office in service of an undeserving son.
Prison time is plainly appropriate in a case such as this, if only to ensure that other elected state officials understand the high cost of corruption.
As to the son, he was an equal partner with his father. It is different only in that rather than being an elected state leader, he’s just another spoiled punk who needs a lesson in reality.