Thomas Libous, powerful N.Y. senator felled by scandal, dies at 63

Thomas W. Libous, the once-influential former New York state senator whose reputation was tarnished

Thomas W. Libous, the once-influential former New York state senator whose reputation was tarnished by a late-life criminal conviction, died Tuesday at a hospice center in Endicott, New York. He was 63.

The cause of death was prostate cancer, Emmanuel Priest, a spokesman for the family, said.

A usually affable veteran of the dysfunctional and often ethically challenged culture of Albany, Libous — a Republican from the state’s Southern Tier whose district included Binghamton — was ensnared in a scandal of his own in 2014, when he was indicted on charges of lying to federal agents who were investigating the hiring of his son at a politically connected law firm.

Libous was convicted the next year, a precursor to the guilty verdicts of two even more powerful colleagues: Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and former speaker of the Assembly, and Dean G. Skelos, Libous’ sometime Republican rival and onetime Senate majority leader. Silver and Skelos were convicted on federal corruption charges in the months after Libous was found guilty; on Tuesday, Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Libous was the second-highest-ranking Republican senator at the time of his conviction, which resulted in his expulsion from the Legislature. Even after the verdict was read, Libous, who was sentenced in November to probation and home confinement in light of his terminal cancer, did not seem to blame the jury or the prosecutors for his fate.

“Everybody treated us fine, and this is the system,” he said on the courthouse steps. “I’m disappointed, but we move on.”

With a fireplug’s frame and a deal-maker’s demeanor, Libous spent nearly three decades in the Senate, earning a reputation as a reliably reasonable lawmaker. He worked closely with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who often found common ground with the senator and his fellow Republicans.

On Tuesday, the leader of the Senate Democrats, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, praised Libous’ willingness to reach across the aisle. “We were always able to work together because of his good nature,” Stewart-Cousins said. “He will be truly missed.”

Libous was first elected in 1988 after a stint on the Binghamton City Council, and his easy manner with colleagues and constituents may have been derived from his retail roots: He grew up working at his family’s grocery store in Binghamton, the big city of the Southern Tier, which has suffered through decades of economic malaise.

Libous seemed attuned to those concerns, lobbying governors — both Democrat and Republican — for projects and economic protections for the region, including securing more than $150 million for capital projects for Binghamton University, one of the area’s larger employers, amid a deterioration of manufacturing.

Over the years, he would lead committees on a range of social issues and other topics, including alcoholism and drug abuse, people with disabilities and mental health, according to his Senate biography. In 2009, he received a diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequently founded a group, I Turned Pro, to raise awareness about the disease and to encourage men in their 50s and older to consult their doctors. He continued to serve until his conviction, outlasting several governors, majority leaders and late budgets.

Still, despite being well liked in his chamber, his trial laid bare some less savory aspects of Libous’ Capitol dealings, including promises to steer business to a Westchester County law firm where his son Matthew Libous hoped to be employed. (Before his father’s conviction, he was convicted of tax fraud in 2015 and sentenced to six months in prison.)

In addition to his son Matthew, Libous is survived by his wife, Frances M. Libous; another son, Nicholas; and a grandson, Campbell.

After his sentencing, an increasingly frail Libous spoke to a crowd of reporters outside the courthouse in White Plains, making a statement whose meaning could have echoed all the way to Albany.

“This is not about me; this is about justice and giving people a fair shake,” he said, holding his wife’s arm. “At the end of the day, anybody could fall into a trap like I did.”

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply