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Court filing: Dean Skelos to be released to home confinement

Dean Skelos leaves federal court in Manhattan during

Dean Skelos leaves federal court in Manhattan during his retrial in 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

Former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has won his on-again, off-again battle to be released to home confinement from the federal prison in Otisville, according to a court filing.

Federal prosecutors said that they have been told by Bureau of Prisons officials that Skelos will be released to home confinement "on or before April 30th," according to a two-sentence letter to the federal judge overseeing Skelos’ case dated Saturday.

The location of Skelos' new confinement was not stated in the letter but traditionally such prisoners would be released to their actual residences with restrictive conditions including electronic monitoring and strict limits on leaving the premises.

The Nassau Republican had asked to spend the more than two-years remaining in his sentence at his Rockville Centre home.

Southern District prosecutors have opposed Skelos being allowed to finish the remainder of his 51-sentence for political corruption in home confinement.

Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted in 2018 on charges relating to the then-majority leader pressuring businesses to giving his son $300,000 in bribes and extortion payments.

The 72-year-old Skelos had initially asked to be released from the Orange County prison because he feared contracting the coronavirus. It later turned out he had tested positive for the disease without symptoms. Skelos also maintained he was in poor health suffering with prediabetes.

The prosecutors have repeatedly said that they object to Skelos’ release on any grounds, writing as recently as Thursday in court papers that: “The defendants crimes were exceptionally serious — he not only abused his position for personal benefit repeatedly, but was part of a culture of corruption that infested state government and eroded public trust in its leaders.”  

Two weeks ago federal prosecutors said they were told by the BOP that Skelos would be released after he tested positive for the coronavirus  Skelos was one of a number of prisoners around the country informed they would be released to help ease the spread of the virus in federal prisons.

But on Wednesday prosecutors said they were told Skelos would not be released because the BOP was enforcing its traditional policy of requiring a prison to serve at least 50% of his sentence before being released. Skelos has served only 30% of his sentence.

Then in a statement later in the week, the BOP said it was considering releasing prisoners on a case-by-case basis that did not necessarily require the 50% threshold. The letter from federal prosecutors over the weekend to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood did not state the reasoning behind the bureau’s decision to release Skelos.

The prosecutors have said in the past that the BOP was still considering whether to grant Skelos compassionate release, a separate category which is usually granted to prisoners facing extraordinary circumstances such as a fatal illness.

Previously,  Skelos' attorneys proposed that if he is released to home confinement that his wife, Gail, would pick him up at the prison and drive him to their Rockville Centre home.

"Mr. Skelos would then endure a fourteen-day self-quarantine restricted to a single bedroom within the home itself to ensure both his and Gail's safety," the attorneys said in their early April proposal.

After that "Gail would perform all essential functions outside the home, including grocery shopping, while exercising the utmost care to maintain social distancing," the proposal continued.

The home confinement conditions they proposed, the lawyers said, were a great improvement on the quarantine conditions at Otisville, where Skelos is housed in a dorm, with beds 1 ½ feet apart and where showers and other facilities are communal.

Skelos' lawyers complained on Tuesday in a letter to Wood that they had just learned their client collapsed in a shower on the morning of April 8, and was quarantined in a solitary cell except for two hours each day until Friday.

During those 10 days, Skelos' attorneys wrote in papers filed in federal court in Manhattan, "He was denied basic necessities including access to his regular, essential medications, the use of his glasses, and any contact in any form with his family and attorneys."

In addition, "Mr. Skelos was allowed to shower just two times and was not permitted a single change of clothes," the attorneys wrote.

Further, Skelos' attorneys, G. Robert Gage and Alexandra Shapiro, said they did not learn that Skelos had tested positive for the coronavirus until the previous Friday.

"The roller coaster of going from a battle with COVID-19 and a dehumanizing quarantine to the tease of a potential furlough to seeing that hope extinguished stands as yet another example of unjust punishment for Mr. Skelos and his family that this Court could never have imagined when ordering his sentence," the attorneys said in their letter. 

In a letter filed with the court after the defense attorney’s letter, federal prosecutors said Skelos carried his own medications with him.

Skelos' lawyers have not returned calls for comment. Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the Southern District, declined to comment.

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