On the eve of the corruption trial of ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last month, Richard Lipsky gave a general assessment.
“The government is an overwhelming favorite” in such cases, he said. “Nobody is a favorite as a defendant.”
Lipsky, a longtime lobbyist, speaks from some experience. He served 3 months in prison for his admitted role in a bribery case that in 2012 sent former Democratic state Sen. Carl Kruger to prison for a 7-year term. Lipsky cooperated with authorities, ultimately guiding them in the ways of legislative practices, and since has consulted and lectured on criminal justice issues, including what he calls “the grinding gears of the prosecutorial state.”
With Silver convicted and his sentencing still to be scheduled, the trial of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, heads to a close this week.
And nobody who’s been keeping an eye on the proceedings seems to rate either defendant a favorite to beat the charges.
Nothing is fated, though. Testimony has yet to conclude. Lawyers’ summations await. U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood has yet to instruct the jury. Jurors have yet to deliberate. No two cases are identical. Surprises happen.
All that said, a jury managed to find Silver guilty of fraud and extortion without the kind of raw audio recordings that the same prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, has presented in the Skelos case. Accounts by prosecution witnesses, such as Chief Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker and former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.), who both testified Friday, seem to come off as more vivid than those presented against Silver, even if the money at stake was smaller.
Sen. Skelos repeatedly pushed people over whom he wielded influence to benefit his son, according to the prosecution’s case.
Adam’s crass recorded remarks, the unabashed throwing around of his father’s political weight, and his haughty lecturing of the senator himself, are unlikely to endear him to those who will judge him.
The defendants’ best hope may rest with the idea that the conduct on trial was foul but not illegal.
That’s an underdog’s position for sure.