Dean Skelos seeks new corruption trial

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Former state Sen. Dean Skelos was convicted of corruption charges in 2015.

Lawyers for former state Sen. Dean Skelos asked a Manhattan federal court Monday to give him a new trial applying a narrower definition of bribery.

Citing last month’s ruling overturning former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction, Skelos argued that prosecutors must retry him with a jury that understands the new legal standard for corruption established last year.

“A man should not be deprived of his liberty by a jury that never even had to consider whether his conduct was criminal,” Alexandra A.E. Shapiro, one of Skelos’ lawyers, wrote in a court filing Monday. “Dean Skelos is entitled to a new, fair trial with a properly instructed jury.”

Skelos, the former Republican majority leader from Rockville Centre, was convicted alongside his son, Adam, in 2015 on charges including bribery, extortion and conspiracy.

They were accused of using Dean Skelos’ political influence over legislation and contracts to get more than $300,000 in payments for Adam from New Hyde Park real estate developer Glenwood Management, Roslyn malpractice insurance firm Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers and Arizona-based environmental technology firm AbTech Industries.

In the 2016 case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that actions exchanged for gifts or money must involve “a formal exercise of governmental power” to be considered criminal.

The jury that convicted Skelos was not told to weigh the evidence according to that definition, requiring a new trial to protect his rights, Shapiro wrote.

The Second Circuit court overturned Silver’s conviction on those grounds, and Shapiro’s brief cites his case repeatedly. Federal prosecutors plan to retry the Manhattan Democrat next year.

But Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said the evidence stacks up against the Skeloses even under the new standard.

Unlike Silver’s case, prosecutors showed hard evidence of Dean Skelos casting votes and otherwise using his power as a senator to get money for his son, Kim wrote in a court filing Monday.

“[T]he defendants cannot establish prejudice from any erroneous instruction given the overwhelming weight of the evidence that Dean Skelos agreed to exchange his indisputably official actions for payments to his son,” Kim wrote.

Skelos and Silver were longtime Albany power brokers with immense control over legislation and state budget negotiations.

One of the charges in Skelos’ case involved a rigged $12 million Nassau County contract with AbTech Industries, for which Adam Skelos worked as a consultant. The Skeloses’ indictments ignited a local debate over reforms to the county’s contracting process.

Democrats, including District Attorney Madeline Singas, have pushed for an independent inspector general to oversee contracts. But Republican County Executive Edward Mangano has said the county investigations commissioner and a procurement compliance director Mangano hired provide enough oversight.

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