June 20, 2018 / 10:05 AM / 9 months ago

Ex-NY state Senate leader, son face retrial on corruption charges

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former New York State Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam began their second trial on federal corruption charges on Wednesday, nearly a year after an appeals court threw out their 2015 convictions.

FILE PHOTO: Former New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos arrives at the Manhattan federal court house in New York City, U.S. May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

“This case is about the abuse of political power to satisfy personal greed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind told jurors in his opening statement in Manhattan federal court.

Prosecutors have accused the elder Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, of using his position to pressure three companies to provide his son with consulting work, a “no-show” job and, on one occasion, a $20,000 check.

“That is pure corruption,” Zolkind said.

Robert Gage, a lawyer for Dean Skelos, told the jury that there had been no illegal agreement in which Skelos promised to use his power in exchange for favors.

“On those occasions when Dean asked for assistance for his son, he never did so with criminal intent,” he said.

Julian Brod, representing Adam Skelos, also denied there was any criminal exchange.

“The evidence will not show that Dean ever used the power of his office to benefit the son who he loved and loves so well,” Brod said.

Both Skeloses were found guilty by a jury in December 2015. Wood later sentenced Dean Skelos to five years in prison, and Adam Skelos to 6-1/2 years. Both have remained free on bail.

Last September, a New York federal appeals court threw out the conviction, ruling the jury had received improper instructions in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 decision overturning the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

The Supreme Court found in McDonnell case that routine political activities such as arranging meetings were not “official acts” that could be prosecuted under federal bribery law.

The federal appeals court cited the same decision last July when it overturned the November 2015 corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver, who once served as New York State Assembly speaker.

Silver, a Democrat who represented Manhattan’s Lower East Side, was retried and found guilty on May 11. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 27.

The cases against Skelos and Silver were among a series of high-profile corruption cases brought by Manhattan federal prosecutors under the tenure of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Others charged included Joseph Percoco, a former aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was found guilty of corruption in March.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott

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