Lawyer: Ex NY Senate leader Skelos never sold office

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 5:14 PM
Lawyer: Ex NY Senate leader Skelos never sold office

NEW YORK (AP) — Former state Senate leader Dean Skelos never used his clout as one of Albany's most powerful politicians to extort bribes consisting of $300,000 in salary and other benefits for his adult son, defense attorneys said Wednesday in closing arguments at the pair's public corruption trial.

The senator's lawyer, G. Robert Gage, argued that prosecutors offered no clear evidence that the 67-year-old Long Island Republican took positions on legislation that would reward three companies — a major real estate developer, an environmental technology company and a medical malpractice insurer — for employing his only child, Adam Skelos.

"There was no quid pro quo — ever," Gage told jurors in federal court in Manhattan. "Nothing was traded here. You know that from the evidence. And, critically, Sen. Skelos never intended for anything to be traded."

He added: "Please consider his entire 30 years of service. ... It did not happen."

Gage and Adam Skelo's attorney, Christopher Conniff, also attacked the credibility of executives who testified for the government, accusing them of portraying themselves as extortion victims to avoid being prosecuted themselves. Among them was Anthony Bonomo, the chief executive of the insurance company who testified that after he put Adam Skelos in a $78,000-a-year position in 2013, the son rarely reported for work.

Bonomo claimed he was under pressure by the elder Skelos to keep his son on the payroll, even after the son threatened to smash in the head of a supervisor who questioned his work ethic. The defense countered by arguing that Bonomo and others independently decided to help Adam Skelos because they wanted to maintain a relationship with a power broker.

Conniff accused prosecutors of trying to distract jurors by playing up Adam Skelo's "temper and ego and arrogance."

"Being an ungrateful person and a bad employee — that's not crime," he said.

In his closing argument on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Mukhi told the jury that the businesses "were strong-armed by Sen. Skelos to pay Adam Skelos" in a deliberate scheme that unraveled after investigators secretly recorded their phone calls.

The prosecutor cited evidence that Dean Skelos, while traveling to a funeral for a slain New York City police officer in January, confronted the Nassau County executive about money the county owed to a company that hired Adam Skelos as a consultant. The senator later called his 33-year-old son to tell him, "All claims that are in will be taken care of," using code language to try to cover his tracks, Mukhi said.

Another prosecutor, Jason Masimore, referenced another audiotape in which the senator reached out to caution his son about the need for discretion because of the ongoing corruption scandal, saying, "Right now we're in dangerous times, Adam." The conversation was further evidence of a father-son conspiracy that threatened to erode the public's faith in honest government, Masimore said in a rebuttal argument on Wednesday.

"Those are the dangerous times the defendants should have cared about, but they didn't," he said. "They only cared about themselves."

Deliberations in the Skelos case are expected to begin sometime Thursday. A separate trial in an adjoining courthouse ended last week with the conviction on bribery charges of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.