‘Albany on Trial’ Claims Its Next Victims

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Sharing the fate of a top New York Democrat, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son were found guilty Friday of a lucrative corruption scheme.
     Convicting the pair on all eight counts, it took a little more than a day for a jury to find that Sen. Skelos helped his son, Adam Skelos, make six-figure salaries from companies that lobbied him to pass legislation that helped their business.
     Adam Skelos already had a six-figure salary in 2010 when his senator father admittedly intervened, as his son had his eye on a $600,000 apartment with a pool.
     Sen. Skelos had been considered one of Albany’s “three men in a room,” alongside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the recently disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
     Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara invoked the phrase when discussing his crackdown on Albany this past January, obliquely criticizing Cuomo for shutting down a corruption probe known as a Moreland Commission.
     Though the winds of Bharara’s storm have not blown on Cuomo’s executive branch yet, the two mightiest limbs of the New York Legislature have toppled under its wrath.
     “How many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve,” Bharara posted to Twitter on Friday after the jury delivered its verdict.
     The jury in the Skeloses’ corruption trial heard from one of the senator’s contacts who faced the brunt of an effort to boost the younger Skelos’ earnings.
     Charles Dorego, general counsel for Glenwood Management, the developer once known as the state’s heaviest donor, spent days on the stand, regaling jurors about how Sen. Skelos and his son repeatedly “badgered” him to find a job for Adam.
     Though the request struck him as “inappropriate,” Dorego said, he helped connect Adam with Glenwood’s contacts at the Arizona-based contractor AbTech to stay in the senator’s good graces.
     Lawyers for the Skelos family told a jury that prosecutors were trying to criminalize the senator being a doting father.
     Defense attorneys largely accepted the government’s factual allegations, but they argued that prosecutors viewed those facts through “dirty windows” to find quid pro quo dealings where none exist.
     Jurors rejected that argument within eight hours of beginning deliberations.
     As the forewoman read out eight guilty counts, the senator’s wife, Gail Skelos, teared up, comforted by brother-in-law Peter Skelos.
     Each of the jurors seemed to avoid eye contact with the defendants.
     The senator’s attorney Robert Gage, from the firm Gage, Spencer & Fleming, took no questions after giving reporters a boilerplate statement about being “obviously very disappointed” with the verdict and planning to “vigorously” appeal.
     Dean and Adam Skelos meanwhile gave no comment to the throngs of journalists surrounding them as they left the courthouse.
     The jury’s forewoman Cynthia Nehlson, an antiques dealer, told reporters that there was never any split among her colleagues, even though they asked to review mounds of evidence a day earlier.
     “We wanted to give them a fair trial, and we did,” Nehlson said.
     The Skeloses face sentencing March 3 and 10 a.m. Their conviction Friday comes less than a month after a different jury convicted Assemblyman Silver of seven counts.     
     After the verdict, Cuomo offered a tough, though some say belated, statement about corruption in Albany.
     “There can be no tolerance for those who use, and seek to use, public service for private gain,” the governor wrote. “The justice system worked today. However, more must be done and will be pursued as part of my legislative agenda. The convictions of former Speaker Silver and former Majority Leader Skelos should be a wake-up call for the Legislature, and it must stop standing in the way of needed reforms.”
     During the trial, prosecutors had likened the Skeloses’ defense as a father defending having robbed a bank for his child.
     Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Masimore heightened the absurdity by invoking the Shel Silverstein poem “Gorilla” to illustrate how he said Adam Skelos wielded his senator father’s clout to line his pockets.
     From the point of view a young boy, the poem begins:
     “Since I brought a gorilla to school,
     “Everyone’s nicer to me.”
     Spelling out the analogy, Masimore said the gorilla here is “the power of the office of the senate majority leader.”

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