A federal judge late Thursday ruled that former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam can stay out of prison pending appeal of their corruption sentences in a decision likely to delay the start of their sentences for months at a minimum.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood cited the Supreme Court decision in June in a case involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell that narrowed the definition of the type of “official act” that can expose a public official to a bribery conviction.
“Defendants have shown that their appeals present a substantial question regarding whether this Court’s jury instructions were erroneous,” Wood said in her brief, one-page order.
Dean Skelos, 68, and Adam, 33, both of Rockville Centre, were convicted last year of scheming to use Dean’s political clout to get companies to give fees and jobs to Adam. Dean was sentenced to 5 years in prison, and Adam to 6-1/2.
The Supreme Court ruled that under federal bribery and “honest services fraud” statutes, a quid pro quo had to involve an official act that was a “formal exercise of governmental power” – more than just arranging meetings, making calls or hosting events for a constituent.
Although Skelos was accused of influencing and supporting legislation as part of the scheme, the government’s case also suggested that other behavior, such as setting up a Department of Health meeting or calling Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano on behalf of one of Adam’s employers, was also part of the bribery scheme.
In filings before Wood, Skelos’ lawyers argued that her instructions to the jury did not clearly differentiate between the type of conduct that qualified as an official act under the McDonnell ruling, and conduct that did not.
The Skeloses have appealed their convictions to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. While the length of time it takes for an appeal to be heard and decided on by the court is unpredictable, at a minimum it usually takes months.
Lawyers for the Skeloses and for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had no comment on the judge’s order.