Dean G. Skelos, the former New York State Senate majority leader who wielded sweeping power in the Legislature for nearly a decade, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison on Wednesday for corruption.
Skelos had forged a formidable reputation in New York politics as one of the “three men in a room” who largely controlled decision-making in Albany. The trio also included Sheldon Silver, the former Democratic speaker of the State Assembly, who was also convicted of corruption in a separate retrial this year; and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
But Skelos’s reign came to a swift and ignominious end when federal prosecutors charged that he had abused his power by pressuring business executives to provide his son about $300,000 for a patchwork of no-show or low-show jobs.
Skelos had made clear, the government said, that he would kill legislation that the executives’ firms were seeking if they did not comply with his demands.
In remarks to the judge before the sentence was imposed, Skelos invoked his deteriorating health and dedication to public service. As he did when he testified at trial, he spoke at length about his love for his wife, son and grandchildren, pleading with the judge to consider how a harsh sentence would affect them.
“I truly am remorseful, your honor,” he said. “I have disappointed so many, and that’s what troubles me. I’ll never get over that.”
The judge, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court in Manhattan, praised Skelos’s long and often laudatory career of helping his constituents. But she made clear that she believed he had been corrupted by his ascension to the pinnacles of power.
“Once you became the Senate majority leader, you began to ignore in part what I have called your moral compass,” she said.
She continued: “What makes your crimes particularly serious, is you corrupted major governmental processes.”
The convictions of Skelos and Silver — and of several other leading state political figures this year — cast a harsh and renewed spotlight on the culture of secrecy and influence peddling in the state capital.
In March, Joseph Percoco, a former top adviser to Cuomo, was convicted in a bribery case and sentenced to six years in prison; and in July, Alain E. Kaloyeros, the principal architect of Cuomo’s key economic revitalization program for upstate and western New York, was convicted in a bid-rigging scheme. He is awaiting sentencing. (Silver was sentenced in July to seven years in prison.)
Skelos’s son, Adam, 36, who was tried and convicted with him in the retrial this summer, was to be sentenced later on Wednesday by Judge Wood.