Jury deliberations began today in the corruption trial of former New York Senate leader Dean Skelos, who is accused of using his clout to extort about $300,000 in income and other benefits for his son.
Sen. Skelos, 67, and his son Adam, 33, were arrested in May after investigators secretly recorded phone conversations between the two that prosecutors said demonstrated a blatant disregard for conflicts of interest that rose to felony crimes — and an awareness that they could get caught.
In one tape, Skelos could be heard advising his son about the need for discretion amid the state capital's ongoing corruption scandal, saying, "Right now we're in dangerous times, Adam."
The jurors, in a note sent to the judge shortly after they got the case, asked to rehear some of the tapes and for transcripts of testimony from nine witnesses. They were expected to resume deliberating Friday morning by listening to the recordings.
In closing arguments in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Mukhi told the jury that a major real-estate developer, an environmental technology company and a medical malpractice insurer "were strong-armed by Sen. Skelos to pay Adam Skelos" in a bribery scheme that was undone by wiretaps and the cooperation of company executives.
Defense attorney G. Robert Gage argued that the tapes and other evidence showed only that the Long Island Republican over-indulged his son like many coddling fathers, and that prosecutors were overreaching in their zeal to clean up corruption in Albany.
"Sen. Skelos did not sell his office," Gage said. "You can be a state senator, and you can be a father."
Last week, Anthony Bonomo, the chief executive of the insurance company, testified that after he put Adam Skelos in a $78,000-a-year position in 2013, the son rarely reported for work. Bonomo said he was under pressure by the elder Skelos to keep his son on the payroll, even after the son threatened to smash in the head of his supervisor.
The defense countered by arguing that Bonomo and others independently had decided to help Adam Skelos because they believed employing the son of a power broker would be good for business. They also attacked his and other witnesses' credibility by accusing them of falsely portraying themselves as victims of extortion to avoid being prosecuted themselves.