Dean Skelos sentenced to 5 years in prison, while son gets 6.5 years

Jeff Coltin

Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was sentenced on Thursday in a Manhattan federal court to five years in federal prison and faces a $500,000 fine after being convicted of corruption last year.

Skelos’ son, Adam, was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison – a longer sentence than his father – and will have to pay back $334,120 in forfeited funds jointly with his father.

Dean and Adam Skelos were convicted last December on eight counts of bribery, extortion and honest services fraud. Prosecutors had asked Manhattan Federal Judge Kimba Wood to sentence him to 12-15 years in federal prison.

During sentencing, the former Senate majority leader apologized for his behavior and asked for leniency for his son.

“I am deeply remorseful. It has destroyed my reputation,” Skelos told the judge. "I again implore this court to exercise leniency towards my son."

The corruption case against Dean Skelos centered around his efforts to help his son by lining up no-show jobs. During sentencing, Adam’s lawyers emphasized his history of alcohol and drug abuse while asking for leniency.

“I deeply regret what I have done,” the younger Skelos said, "and I realize I need to accept my punishment.” He then asked Wood to show leniency “to my dad, and not to me.”

The judge did not impose a fine on Adam alone, saying he doesn’t “have any money to pay a fine.”

“As an adult you appeared to have no moral compass,” Wood told Adam during sentencing. "I think you did everything you could to monetize your father's position."

Wood had similar words for Dean Skelos, who held of the most powerful political positions in New York.  “Once you became the Senate majority Leader, you ignored your moral compass,” she said.

Whether Skelos will actually have to report to prison is still up to the judge. Lawyers for both the Skeloses and the federal government had an extended discussion over whether the pending outcome of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, McDonnell v. United States, could lead to a different outcome in an appeal of the case at hand. Prosecutors will report back to Wood on Wednesday, after which she will determine whether Dean and Adam Skelos will be granted bail pending appeal.

The Skelos’ sentencing follows former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s last week. Silver was sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison and was forced to forfeit $5.3 million.

Both former legislative leaders were arrested on corruption charges last year within weeks of each other by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

“The nearly simultaneous convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, whose corruption crimes were laid bare during fair and public trials, have no precedent.” Bharara said in a statement.  “And while Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better.”

Now that he has successfully prosecuted Silver and Skelos, Bharara shows no evidence of stopping his corruption crusade. Bharara is currently investigating a top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Joe Percoco, for improper lobbying and potential undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Cuomo in a statement released shortly after the sentencing reiterated his “zero tolerance” for corruption in the state Legislature.

“These sentences show there is zero tolerance for those who use public service for private gain,” the governor said in the statement. “Today, the guilty were punished and justice prevailed.”

Additionally, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fundraising efforts to help Democrats regain control of the state Senate during the 2014 election – an effort that ultimately failed – are also being investigated.

In the past, Bharara has harshly criticized Cuomo’s decision to prematurely shut down the Moreland Commission he created in 2014 to root out corruption in the state Legislature. Earlier this year Bharara announced that there was “insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime” in the shutdown of the Moreland Commission.

“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 in his written statement today. “That will continue to be our guiding principle in exposing and punishing corruption throughout New York.”