MANHATTAN (CN) – The final politician to be sentenced in a highly publicized crackdown on New York corruption, a former majority leader of the state Senate, was sentenced Wednesday to four years and three months in prison.
“Through your crimes, you caused immeasurable damages to the New Yorkers, to the New York citizens, in the integrity of their government,” U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood told Dean Skelos this morning.
A federal jury convicted the 70-year-old this summer, following a retrial secured in the wake of Supreme Court precedent on corruption prosecutions.
Though Wood had sentenced Skelos to six years imprisonment in 2016, she ordered a more merciful term today because of the ex-senator’s age. Skelos faces a three-month enhancement for having given misleading testimony at his retrial.
Later that afternoon, Wood sentenced Adam Skelos, the senator’s son and co-defendant, to four years in prison.
The pair were indicted on charges that Dean Skelos, once the New York Legislature’s most powerful Republican, milked his political connections with the state donors to get jobs for his son. The latter allegedly wanted more income to cover the cost of a $600,000 apartment.
At this morning’s hearing, the elder Skelos made an emotional plea for Judge Wood to show both him and his son mercy.
“I have always tried to protect him, but I failed him,” he said, praising his wife, children and grandchildren for their support.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McKay said that the Skelos family aren’t the only people hurting today.
“It’s also a sad day for the people of New York, because once again they need to hear about how one of the highest public officials corrupted his office,” McKay said.
Defense attorneys meanwhile touted their client’s legislative record, crediting Skelos with helping to pass Megan’s Law, which created a sex-offender registry; the Epic Act, which financially supports low-income seniors; and groundbreaking gun-control legislation known as the SAFE Act.
But prosecutor McKay called the senator’s legislative record irrelevant to the crimes he committed.
“The court should keep in mind: passing legislation to help the people was his job,” McKay said.
In another testament to the senator, defense attorney Robert Cage noted that Skelos had even won kind words from his probation officer.
“There is no doubt that Mr. Skelos has been zealous about his concern for others in his professional and personal life,” Cage said, quoting the officer.
For Judge Wood, however, it was apparent that Skelos had lost his moral compass.
“He sent a message, that he, one of the three most powerful politicians in New York state, was in some measure corrupt,” she said.
Skelos offered an apology to New Yorkers in his statement.
“My constituents: You have elected and reelected me for 30 years,” he said.
“I let you down, for which I apologize. I apologize with all my soul, your honor. I hope one day my constituents will think of the good things that we did together and forgive me.”
Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami called today's sentences "but a small down-payment to correct the damage they did to our citizens’ faith in state government."
"At the same time, these same citizens can have faith that those who abuse the public trust for their personal benefit will be caught and sentenced to substantial prison terms,” Khuzami added.
The case against Dean and Adam Skelos marked the last remaining retrial in a spate of prosecutions filed by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara against both branches of New York’s Legislature and close allies of the governor.
Every case that went to trial ended in a conviction, including that of the Skelos family, ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and eight lobbyists, developers, and political operatives connected to sitting Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Silver, the disgraced Democratic counterpart to Skelos in the New York Assembly, recently succeeded in delaying his surrender date to begin his seven-year sentence. The Second Circuit paused the start of his sentence pending an appeal that Skelos’ attorneys contend involve similar appellate issues.
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