A prosecutor told jurors Sen. Dean Skelos turned his office into a “cash cow” and “strong-armed” companies into hiring his son, Adam, in violation of his oath during a verbal pummeling of the Long Island duo at the start of summations Tuesday in their family-affair corruption trial.
“You do not take the democratic power entrusted to you by citizens and twist it to make your own family rich,” prosecutor Rahul Mukhi told Manhattan federal court jurors during a three-hour closing that will continue Wednesday. “That’s not just an oath. That’s the law.”
Mukhi tweaked the Skeloses with barbs aimed at their defense that the senator never explicitly asked for a bribe — calling it corruption “with a wink and a nod” — and at their claims the case was an effort to criminalize a father’s parental desire to help a child.
“You can’t commit a crime and then say, ‘I’m not guilty because I love my son,’ ” Mukhi said, comparing Skelos to a bank robber trying to get off because he gave the loot to his children. “It’s an insult to all the fathers and mothers who try to help their kids without committing crimes.”
“One of Senator Skelos’ core positions when he became Senate majority was job creation,” the prosecutor added. “You bet it was. Job creation for Adam Skelos.”
Closings began after the government rested its case and the Skeloses told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood they did not want to testify, setting the stage for the start of deliberations as early as Wednesday.
The two, in brief colloquies, told the judge their minds were clear — Dean Skelos said he had wine Sunday, Adam had a margarita — and they had consulted with their lawyers. “I have considered it,” Dean Skelos said of the possibility he would testify. “I’ve made a conscious decision not to.”
Later, in an odd moment during a break in Mukhi’s summation, the senator approached Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and stuck out his hand. “Let me introduce myself,” he said. “I think we met at one of the funerals.” Bharara, looking surprised, shook hands but said nothing and quickly looked away.
Asked leaving court why he made the approach, Skelos said, “Because I’m a gentleman.” He and his son both predicted they will be exonerated.
Skelos, 67, the state Senate GOP leader until he was charged, and Adam, 33, both of Rockville Centre, are accused of bribery and extortion for allegedly trying to shake down New Hyde Park developer Glenwood Management, Physicians Reciprocal Insurers of Roslyn and Arizona technology firm AbTech Industries.
Their conspiracy, prosecutors say, included doing legislative favors in Albany in return for more than $300,000 in payments to Adam Skelos, and pushing Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to approve and later expedite payments on a $12 million stormwater antipollution contract with AbTech.
During the trial that began Nov. 16, no government witness testified that Dean Skelos made explicit threats of retaliation or promises of favors based on helping Adam Skelos, and the defense also elicited testimony that some alleged “favors” were consistent with long-held positions on real estate regulation and malpractice insurance.
Mukhi called those defenses meaningless, telling jurors they weren’t “living in some made-up world where public officials make announcements that they are asking for a bribe,” and noting that his Senate position meant Skelos was holding “a hammer” when he asked companies to hire his son.
“He didn’t have to say ‘or else,’” the prosecutor argued, pointing out that in the case of Glenwood, Skelos brought up Adam at meetings on legislation, and he and his son pestered the company more than 30 times before it got the message, giving the younger Skelos $20,000 and lining up a consultant job with AbTech.
“That by itself is brazen corruption,” Mukhi said. “Calling these requests incessant is a vast understatement.”
The prosecutor also walked jurors through Dean Skelos’ efforts to use his Nassau connections — first to stall the AbTech contract until Adam was paid more, and then to help AbTech get it funded. Mukhi said Dean Skelos talked to Mangano “numerous times” for AbTech, including “in code” on one wiretapped call to expedite funds.
Mukhi played the call again. “Ladies and gentlemen, that is a quid pro quo in real time — that money for this call,” he said.
Defense summations are scheduled for Wednesday. Leaving court, Adam Skelos said he was “confident,” but other members of the family were showing signs of stress.
Dean Skelos’ younger brother, Nicholas, of Lynbrook, called Bharara’s treatment of the senator “horrible,” and lashed out at the media for painting a “despicable” portrait.
“My brother’s never a bum,” he said. “He’s not a bum now, and he never will be a bum.”
“I wanna go home,” said the senator’s wife, Gail. “I’m hungry. I need a drink.”