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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos cases appear in cultural contrast

Then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), left,

Then-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), left, and then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), talk to reporters outside Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office at the Capitol in Albany after a budget meeting on Thursday, March 27, 2014. Photo Credit: AP

The U.S. government's separate corruption cases against ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will command close attention in Albany as they unfold. But these spectacles also resonate back in their districts. The cases have already rattled the discrete parochial worlds of Republican Mineola and Democratic Manhattan.

Coming as they do from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office, the discrete sets of allegations share a theme -- big players deriving illegal gain from public jobs. There's overlap in the cast of characters too, with New Hyde Park-based Glenwood Management, the business built by 101-year-old Leonard Litwin, who isn't charged in the case.

But the Silver case, which commences in federal court Monday, also involves the institutional life of Manhattan -- specifically a doctor who led medical research efforts at Columbia University on asbestos injuries, such as those caused in the wake of 9/11.

Bharara's office said Speaker Silver, a Democrat with a downtown district, directed state funds to an acquaintance, Dr. Robert Taub (not charged), who in turn sent mesothelioma patients to a New York City law firm the speaker was affiliated with -- and that Silver illegally reaped $3 million. Silver denies all the criminal acts charged.

Silver also faces felony counts involving funds through another law firm, run by his former counsel Jay Arthur Goldberg (not charged).

By contrast, the prosecution of Skelos, who's scheduled for trial on Nov. 16, tours his domestic suburban domain in Nassau County. The trappings of his alleged corruption involved highhanded statements recorded by the FBI and made by his son and co-defendant Adam Skelos, who lives in Rockville Centre near the senator.

Plans to fund the son's expenses allegedly led to string-pulling. The details involved title insurance and a company selling a device for treating storm water. Prosecutors say Adam Skelos tried to squeeze work out of a Greek diners' association. They cite an effort to place the senator's daughter-in-law on the Hempstead Town zoning board. In the narrative, too, are Skelos' dealings with the Mangano administration and the Nassau Industrial Development Authority.

Now the ex-leaders face parallel challenges. Before, they occupied the spotlight at the Capitol; now they do so in federal court in Manhattan. It always seems to come down to location and real estate.

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