Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) did not testify in his 2015 corruption trial.
But the second time around, Skelos decided to take the stand and tell the jury why he pushed local companies to hire his son, Adam.
“Quite frankly, I asked a lot of people to help my son,” he testified last week at a federal courthouse in Manhattan, according to the New York Daily News. “If I had the opportunity to ask [somebody] to help Adam, I would.”
The two Skelos men are again facing charges that Dean Skelos used his power in Albany to secure jobs and fees worth $300,000 for Adam Skelos from Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers in Roslyn, New Hyde Park real estate developer Glenwood Management and Arizona-based environmental technology firm AbTech Industries.
The father and son were convicted on corruption charges in 2015, but the conviction was overturned last September by a federal appeals court, citing a U.S. Supreme Court case involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, which narrowed the definition of an “official act” and what constitutes corruption.
In testimony last week, Skelos painted his efforts to help Adam as motivated not by greed but from a desire to be a good father.
He said he became close to his adopted son after his wife left him in 1982 and said that Adam struggled with school work and behavioral problems growing up, according to the Daily News.
Those struggles led to alcohol and drug addiction in Adam’s early 20s, according to the Daily News, along with anger management issues.
An employee at Physicians Reciprocal Insurers testified earlier in the trial that Adam threatened to “smash his [expletive] head in” after he questioned Adam about not showing up for work.
“His temperament, sometimes, he could get a bit abrasive,” Skelos said, according to the Daily News. “It could get a little ugly.”
While he admitted to asking Glenwood Management for “financial” help for his son, Dean Skelos denied that he ever threatened businesses or promised benefits in Albany if they worked with him, according to a Newsday report.
That went against the testimony of Physicians Reciprocal Insurers CEO Anthony Bonomo, who testified earlier that he could not fire Adam because he needed his father’s support that was essential to the company’s survival.
David J. Ayres, a former Nassau County judge and current partner at Barket Epstein Kearon LLP in Garden City, said that he was surprised that Skelos chose to testify this time around.
“For the second trial, it’s unusual for the strategy of the trial to change so much,” he said. “The defense is going to bring their violin and try to paint [Dean Skelos] as Robert Young from Father Knows Best.”
Ayres said that there were benefits and drawbacks to Skelos deciding to testify.
He said that Skelos likely felt that using the same strategy as the first trial would produce the same result, so why not try something different? But he added that Skelos testimony could be undercut by other pieces of evidence.
“When he paints himself in that light [as a concerned father], it flies in the face of what the wiretaps recorded, that he was livid with Glenwood for donating to the Democrats, or telling them to pony up money,” he said.
That was exactly what happened on Tuesday. Federal prosecutor Thomas McKay called Skelos’ testimony “ridiculous” during closing arguments, according to a Newsday report.
“Everything that happened… was someone else’s fault,” McKay said, and accused Skelos of lying when he claimed he didn’t have the power in the state Senate to kill a state-sanctioned building project in Nassau County.
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.