NEW YORK (AP) — A prosecutor told a jury at the opening of a criminal trial Wednesday that former New York state Senate leader Dean Skelos and his son were motivated by greed when they pressured businesses to funnel over $300,000 to the son.
Defense lawyers disputed the claims of Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind, saying Skelos and his son Adam did nothing wrong in dealings that brought an unnatural halt to the 70-year-old Republican’s legislative career.
Zolkind said the case was “about the abuse of political power to satisfy personal greed.”
He accused the elder Skelos of following a “pattern of old fashioned political corruption” when he “strong-armed” three businesses into enriching his son through consulting work, a no-show job and a payment of $20,000.
The businesses included one of New York’s biggest real estate developers, an Arizona-based company that removed toxins from storm water and a medical malpractice insurance company. Zolkind said laws passed by New York’s legislature were crucial to company profits and Dean Skelos was pivotal to the process.
Attorney G. Robert Gage Jr., representing Dean Skelos, said his client was “not guilty and, in fact, innocent.” He said that when Skelos asked for help for his son, he “never did so with criminal intent.”
Attorney Julian Brod, representing Adam Skelos, said there was never a corrupt agreement between the defendants and the business representatives they supposedly pressured.
The character of Adam Skelos was a subject of opening statements after Zolkind said evidence will include proof that Adam Skelos threatened to “bash the skull” of his supervisor and told him he “wasn’t fit to shine his shoes” when the executive complained that he wasn’t showing up for work at a job that was arranged corruptly by his father.
Gage said Adam Skelos can “on occasion … be a very volatile man, can go off the rails.”
Brod told jurors not to penalize his client for his behavior, conceding he was “not employee of the month” and said some things to his boss that “Adam should be, and is, ashamed of.”
“That’s what happens when your whole life spills out in a courtroom,” Brod said. “He’s not always his own best friend.”
The men were convicted in 2015 of extortion, conspiracy and bribery. Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison. His son got 6½ years. But neither served time.
A new trial was ordered by a federal appeals court in Manhattan after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the law regarding public corruption as it reversed the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The trial is likely to last a month.
By LARRY NEUMEISTER , Associated Press