SCOTUS Shadow Keeps N.Y. Politico Out of Prison

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Disgraced former New York Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son can postpone their lengthy incarceration for corruption until after the Supreme Court rules in a case central to their appeal, prosecutors said.
     U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood sentenced the former senator to five years and his son Adam Skelos to 6 1/2 years behind bars last week for a nepotistic scheme to steer hundreds of thousands of dollars into the family for political favors.
     At Thursday’s hearing, prosecutors wanted the court to set a date immediately for the Skeloses to report to prison, but the specter of the U.S. Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in the case of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell won the men a delay.
     McDonnell’s lawyers appeared to convince a majority of justices late last month that the governor’s convictions for accepting $165,000 in gifts and loans hinged upon a vague definition of “official acts.”
     Just as the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions loosened campaign finance laws, the McDonnell precedent could gut federal anti-bribery laws, the Campaign Legal Center recently warned.
     From the Supreme Court’s sharp questions, court watchers expect a reversal of the Virginia governor’s convictions, and that decision could undermine several other corruption prosecutions — including those of the Skelos family.
     Wood agreed last week that “there is a danger” that the McDonnell precedent could give the Skeloses an avenue for a successful appeal.
     On Monday, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told Wood in a letter that prosecutors would agree to delay bail hearings until after the McDonnell decision.
     “As stated at sentencing, the government believes that, whatever the result in McDonnell, the issue raised in that case would not raise any issue here that meets the bail pending appeal standard,” the two-page letter states.
     “Nevertheless, given the defense’s arguments and that no surrender date has been scheduled yet, and in light of the fact of that the Supreme Court is expected to decide the McDonnell case before the end of its current term on June 27, 2016, the government believes that the court can adjourn the bail pending appeal briefing until after the McDonnell decision without prejudice to any party,” Bharara wrote.
     The Skelos family has some breathing room even after the Supreme Court rules. A bail hearing schedule allows more than a month of written briefings before proceedings.
     If the court rules against the Skeloses, they would then have 60 days before reporting to prison.

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