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Former NY Senate Leader Skelos and son get prison terms

Karen Dewitt
WRVO News File Photo

Another once-powerful New York state politician has been sentenced to prison.

In federal court Thursday, Dean Skelos received five years for corruption; his son, Adam, got a 6½-year sentence.

Despite pleas from the two men and their lawyers that they did good works and were very sorry, Judge Kimba Wood told Skelos and his son that they “caused immeasurable damage to New Yorkers’ confidence in the integrity of government,” and ordered prison terms. Dean Skelos also must pay over $800,000 in fines and restitution.

The men were convicted last December of obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and carrying out extortion schemes. Prosecutors said they essentially monetized Dean Skelos’ influence with the real estate and medical insurance industries to obtain a string of no-show jobs for his son, Adam, who had struggled to find a steady job to support his family and finance a hefty mortgage.

On May 3, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver received 12 years in prison after his corruption conviction.

There also are federal probes involving a former top aide and a close associate of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, as well as investigations into some acts by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration.

Susan Lerner, executive director of good-government group Common Cause, says it’s astounding that so far, Cuomo and lawmakers have been unable to agree on any ethics reforms to clean up corruption. She predicts that without changes, more lawmakers may have to face consequences.

“We’re going to see more indictments,” Lerner said. “We’re going to see more legislators and members of the executive (branch) under investigation and on trial.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who successfully prosecuted the two leaders and who now is investigating the former Cuomo associates, said in a statement that the two cases “have no precedent,” and that “the people of New York deserve better.”

Bharara also took a thinly veiled shot at Cuomo, saying: “The most effective corruption investigations are those that are truly independent and not in danger of either interference or premature shutdown.”

Cuomo abruptly shuttered his own Moreland Act commission on corruption. That act spurred a probe that resulted in no proof of wrongdoing. Cuomo also has begun his own investigation into his former top aide, Joe Percoco, and a lobbyist, Todd Howe, who is closely associated with his family.

In a statement, Cuomo said the sentences for Dean and Adam Skelos show “there is zero tolerance for those who use public service for private gain.”

“The guilty were punished and justice prevailed,” Cuomo said.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.