Dean Skelos, the once mighty Senate Republican who was addressed by colleagues as “Leader” before his political career collapsed last year, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison following his conviction on federal corruption charges.
His son, Adam, was sentenced to six and a half years.
“You have no moral compass.” U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood told him.
His bullying and threats required a sentence that deters him from future behavior, the judge said.
She ordered Adam to participate in inpatient mental health program in prison, according to Newsday.
He also was fined $500,0000.
And together, they were ordered to repay $334,000 in ill-gotten gains.
Wood said a hefty fine was in order because Skelos voted for reform, stripping pensions from new senators who are convicted.
Wood did not rule whether Dean Selos could stay of out of prison during his appeal process.
Prosecutors depicted Skelos as a criminal who planned a scheme to use his position to enrich his son.
Wood acknowledged the money involved in the Skelos crimes did not approach those for which Silver was accused of receiving in “crime proceeds,” but said Skelos still “sent a message” that he was corrupt.
Moments after Wood handed down a more lenient sentence than the 12 years Silver received and less than half what prosecutors had sought, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara focused on the sentences in just one week’s time for two politicians who had exclusive entry to Albany’s three-men-in-a-room system of government.
“While Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better,” Bharara said in a written statement.
Bharara also issued a not-so-subtle jab at Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“These cases show – and history teaches – that the most effective corruption investigations are those that are truly independent and not in danger of either interference or premature shutdown,’’ Bharara said. “That will continue to be our guiding principle in exposing and punishing corruption throughout New York.”
Bharara in the past has criticized the governor for prematurely shutting down an anti-corruption commission that had open investigations when Cuomo cut a deal with lawmakers to close the panel’s operations.
Senate Democrats, who are seeking to grab full control of the 63-member Senate in the fall elections, also wasted no time in responding to the former GOP leader’s sentencing.
“Albany has been rocked by scandal after scandal, and yet the Senate continues to bury their heads in the sand and refuses to take action,” Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said of the need for stronger ethics law changes in the wake of the latest round of corruption cases in Albany.
Skelos was convicted of using his Senate leadership post – holding sway over important state budget and legislative matters – to leverage lucrative arrangements for his son with three companies with business before the Senate and state.
Lawyers for Skelos tried to focus the judge on the senator’s accomplishments, which they included as his help in getting passed – over considerable GOP opposition over the years – sweeping gun control laws and the 2011 same-sex marriage statute.
Speaking for himself, Skelos said his reputation has been destroyed by the affair. “Somewhere along the way, my judgment became flawed,” Skelos said, according to a tweet from a New York Times reporter in a press room near the courtroom.
Skelos’ sentencing followed by a week the sentencing of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He was sentenced on May 3 to 12 years in prison for tapping into his extraordinary influence over state government to enrich himself, ordered to forfeit more than $5 million from his criminal proceeds, and fined an additional $1.75 million.
Wood noted that Silver got much more money but Skelos’ crime had the same effect, according to Newsday.
“You sent a message that you... were in some measure corrupt,” the judge said,
Bharara had asked Wood to sentence Skelos to a prison term of up to 15½ years and a fine of more than $350,000. Bharara has gained a national reputation for rooting out corruption in New York State.
The elder Skelos was accused of using the power of his office to steer money – through no-show jobs – to his son, Adam, at companies whose executives testified that they hired him for fear of alienating the senator.
Evidence presented at trial included emails pertaining to deal-making that would financially benefit the son and keep his powerful father happy. There were documents about well-timed donations from deep-pocket real estate interests to soothe Dean Skelos. There was the evidence prosecutors produced alleging Adam Skelos’ no-show job at a politically connected firm and his threat of physical violence when a boss questioned his work ethic.
And several wiretapped phone conversations between Skelos and his son were played in court, including one of Adam Skelos asking his father to provide names of billionaires who had business before the state.
On another, Adam Skelos emitted a high-pitched moan when he discussed with his father Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s decision to ban hydraulic fracturing, a move Adam Skelos saw as cutting off some business opportunities for him.