By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Once-powerful New York state legislators Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos will be tried on separate public corruption charges in November.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in New York on Thursday set Nov. 16 as the trial date for Skelos, the former state senate majority leader.
The trial of Silver, the former Assembly speaker, is scheduled for Nov. 2 and expected to last several weeks. That makes it likely both high-profile federal cases will take place simultaneously in downtown Manhattan.
The two men resigned their leadership posts following their indictments earlier this year but have not stepped down from the legislature.
Along with Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, Silver, a Democrat, and Skelos, a Republican, were the “three men in a room” who have long controlled the legislative agenda in the capital city of Albany.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office charged Silver and Skelos as part of a string of high-profile prosecutions of Albany lawmakers, has criticized the system as rife with opportunities for corruption.
Silver, who represents the Lower East Side of Manhattan, is accused of using his post to collect millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks. Skelos, who is from Long Island, is charged with pressuring companies to funnel payments to his son, Adam, in exchange for legislative support.
Adam Skelos has also been indicted. All three men have pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations.
Last week, Bharara’s office won a guilty verdict at trial against Skelos’ No. 2 in the Senate, Thomas Libous, for lying to federal agents investigating him for corruption.
Two days later, John Sampson, another state senator, was found guilty of obstructing a federal probe into whether he had embezzled funds, in a case brought by Bharara’s counterpart in Brooklyn, Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)