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Sen. Dean Skelos says he won’t testify at corruption trial

Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos,

Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, arrive at federal court in Manhattan on Nov. 17, 2015. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Dean Skelos has decided not to testify in his Manhattan federal court corruption trial, he told the judge on Tuesday.

The statement by Skelos during a brief colloquy with the judge set the stage for closing arguments beginning Tuesday afternoon and a climactic verdict that could come as early as this week.

“I’m feeling great,” Skelos told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood. “I have considered it. I’ve made a conscious decision not to.”

His son Adam also told Wood he had consulted with his lawyers and decided not to take the stand.

Skelos, 67, the State Senate’s Republican majority leader until he was charged in May, and his son Adam, 33, both of Rockville Centre, are charged with a bribery-extortion conspiracy.

They allegedly tried to “monetize” the senator’s power by using it to get work and payments for Adam Skelos from a developer, a malpractice insurer and an environmental technology firm, and doing favors for them.

During a trial that began on Nov. 16, no government witness testified that the senator made explicit threats of retaliation or promises of favors based on helping his son.

The defense also elicited testimony that some of the alleged favors he did for Glenwood Management of New Hyde Park, Physicians Reciprocal Insurers of Roslyn and AbTech Industries of Arizona was consistent with long-held legislative positions on real estate and malpractice insurance issues.

But the government can rely on circumstantial evidence to show there were implicit threats and promises, and called witnesses from all three companies to testify that they felt anxious to fulfill Skelos’ repeated requests because of his power.

Prosecutors also played wiretaps of the Skeloses plotting to use their influence over a Nassau County contract to make Adam Skelos pay AbTech more, and then discussing how to help AbTech with the county and with state funding and fracking legislation in Albany.

In their opening arguments, the defense said a major theme of their case would be to portray the charges as a misplaced attempt to criminalize a father’s natural desire to help his son establish a career, without criminal intent.

Some evidence reflected a father-son dynamic. The senator claimed his son was struggling when he asked for help, and in some wiretaps the senior Skelos seemed to be helping his son manage emotions and disappointments.

But prosecutors undercut the defense by putting in evidence that Adam Skelos was making six-figure sums while his father claimed he was struggling.

Pretrial indications by the defense that they would seek to attract sympathy by bringing out evidence that Adam Skelos was adopted and had an autistic child came to little.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood limited questions about those matters, and one witness who was asked said bluntly that he knew Adam Skelos had an autistic child but hired him because of his father’s power, not sympathy.


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