Former New York State Senate leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, want their retrial on corruption charges to be moved to another state because of pervasive prejudicial publicity, according to new pretrial motions filed in Manhattan federal court.
The Skeloses’ lawyers said that between extensive law-enforcement leaks that preceded charges, detailed coverage of their 2015 trial, denunciations surrounding their 2016 sentencing and more coverage of the 2017 reversal of their convictions, a fair trial in New York is impossible.
“Having been told what to think about the Skelos case by an indignant media for three years, the potential jury pool in New York and surrounding states is now so poisoned that the Skeloses cannot be assured of a fair trial unless the case is transferred out of this part of the country,” the lawyers said.
One-time Republican power broker Skelos, 70, and Adam Skelos, 35, both of Rockville Centre, asked U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood to move the retrial of the case to western Pennsylvania or to a judicial circuit that includes Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.
The two were convicted in 2015 of schemes in which Dean Skelos used his Senate power to get Adam jobs or consulting fees by squeezing real estate firm Glenwood Management, Nassau County contractor AbTech Industries and an affiliate of Physicians Reciprocal Insurers, a Roslyn malpractice firm.
They were sentenced, respectively, to 5- and 6 1⁄2-year prison terms by Wood, but their convictions were reversed last year by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because jury instructions did not comply with a new Supreme Court decision narrowing federal public corruption laws.
Their retrial is scheduled for June 18. Motions to change the location — or “venue,” in legal parlance — of a trial are rarely granted. Prosecutors declined to comment on the request.
In addition to asking for a change of venue, lawyers for the Skeloses asked Wood to inspect records of the grand jury that originally indicted them in 2015 and dismiss the charges if the grand jurors were not given legal instructions that match the later-decided Supreme Court case.
They also renewed a motion, filed before the first Skelos trial, to dismiss the charges based on violations of grand jury secrecy by law-enforcement officials, claiming that information was repeatedly leaked to try to stimulate incriminating conversations by the Skeloses that could be caught on wiretaps.
The motion, heavily redacted, argues that correlations of the timing and content of law-enforcement-sourced news stories, grand jury appearances by particular witnesses and wiretaps provides a basis for Wood to hold a hearing on violations by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
It cites another recent Manhattan federal court case involving insider trading charges against Las Vegas gambler Billy Walters in which an investigation led to identification of a New York FBI official who had been leaking to further the probe. Prosecutors have denied any improper leaks.
In a filing of their own Friday, prosecutors revealed that Dean Skelos has issued a series of subpoenas seeking information about a key government witness — malpractice executive Anthony Bonomo, who testified that Skelos used his leverage over legislation to get him to hire Adam.
After the trial, Bonomo, a horseman who owned Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, was ousted from control of Physicians Reciprocal, which he ran through an affiliate, amid allegations of cronyism, mismanagement and self-dealing by New York’s Department of Financial Services.
The subpoenas to DFS and the companies, seeking information about Bonomo, are an effort to gather dirt to attack Bonomo’s credibility at a retrial, the government said. Prosecutors asked Wood to quash them.
Skelos’ lawyer could not be reached for comment.