After two days of deliberations, a jury found former Republican state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, guilty on all bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges against them Friday.
The verdict marks a victory for the federal prosecutors the two lawmakers who were once the most powerful in the state — Skelos and Sheldon Silver, who was convicted Nov. 30. Both automatically lost their legislative seats as a result of the conviction.
“(H)ow many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve?” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for Manhattan, in a statement.
The Nassau County government and two North Shore firms were central to the charges against the Skeloses of Rockville Centre, who face up to 130 years in prison but will likely get a shorter sentence, reports say.
The verdict raises questions about how Albany might reform itself and how the county might safeguard its contract system from further abuse and corruption.
“The trial is over and the jury has delivered its verdict. We must now work together in a bipartisan manner to restore the public’s trust,” said State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), a colleague of Dean Skelos’ whose voice was heard during the trial on wiretapped phone calls.
Dean, 67, and Adam, 33, were accused of using Dean’s political power and influence 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.
Glenwood, its limited-liability subsidiaries and principal Leonard Litwin, 101, have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Skelos’ and Silver’s political campaigns.
All three firms had business before the state, and executives testified they feared retribution from Skelos, who had significant control over laws on which the companies depended, if they didn’t enrich Adam.
“The threat was if this was going to create a problem, I didn’t want that to get in the way of legislation not passing,” Physicians’ Recriprocal CEO Anthony Bonomo, a longtime friend of Dean’s, testified Dec. 3.
Initial efforts to reach representatives for Glenwood and Physicians’ Reciprocal were unavailing.
They also squeezed Nassau officials to secure a $12 million deal for AbTech, after which the company raised Adam’s monthly consulting fee from $4,000 to $10,000.
After Skelos’ indictment in May, Nassau District Attorney-elect Madeline Singas launched an investigation into the county’s contract system that led her to call it a “recipe for corruption” in an August report.
County Executive Edward Mangano later created the county’s own contract reform commission, but so far the only reform implemented has been the creation of a registry for Nassau lobbyists.
“The jury’s verdict reinforces the need for immediate legislative action to implement the comprehensive reforms my office has proposed to protect taxpayers,” said Singas, who had staffers in the courtroom during the Skeloses’ trial.
Mangano’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict.
In a New York Times op-ed, state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), chair of the Assembly’s ethics committee, recommended four reforms to prevent further corruption like Skelos’ and Silver’s.
Namely, he said, state lawmakers should work full-time and not have jobs outside the Legislature.
“When the Legislature is out — which is to say, most of the time — too much power is abdicated to the two legislative leaders and the governor,” he wrote. “A full-time Legislature would temper that power and allow for far more scrutiny of the conduct of legislative leaders.”