The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Former New York State Senate majority leader sentenced to five years in federal prison

New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R), speaking during a joint session of the legislature in 2014, was sentenced Thursday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Placeholder while article actions load

The once-powerful Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison for pressuring companies that relied heavily on government contracts to give his son nominal but lucrative jobs, authorities said.

Dean Skelos, 68, and his 33-year-old son, Adam, were convicted last year of bribery, extortion and related counts for carrying out a variety of schemes that prosecutors said were “among the most serious public corruption crimes committed in New York State in recent memory.” Dean Skelos, prosecutors said, targeted businesses that depended on state help either through legislation or contracts and forced them to pay his son hundreds of thousands of dollars for jobs where he did not actually have to work.

The brash New York prosecutor who’s indicting left and right

Prosecutors had asked that Dean Skelos face a sentence “within or approaching” a range of 12 years and 7 months to 15 years and 8 months, while defense attorneys requested probation.

Adam Skelos — who prosecutors had requested face a prison term “within or approaching” a range of 10 years and a month to 12 years and 7 months — was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.

Under the direction of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, federal prosecutors in New York have cracked down on corruption in the statehouse. Last week, former New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver (D) was sentenced to 12 years in prison in a corruption case that prosecutors said “struck at the core of democratic governance” and polluted the institution where he wielded immense power.

Prosecutors argued that the Skelos case “fed the public’s worst fears and suspicions about their government: that our elected officials are not looking out for the public good, but instead looking out only for ways to turn the immense power entrusted in them into personal profit.”

Defense attorneys wrote in court papers that Dean Skelos’s conduct was “fundamentally driven by Dean’s love and concern for his only son and ultimately his son’s young family, a love that is the hallmark of his family life,” and they urged the judge to consider the good he had done as a legislator.

In a statement after the sentencing, Bharara said: “In the span of just 16 months, we have seen the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of both leaders of the New York State legislature. The nearly simultaneous convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, whose corruption crimes were laid bare during fair and public trials, have no precedent.  And while Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better.”