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Prosecutors' letter: Dean Skelos ineligible for home confinement

Dean Skelos leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan

Dean Skelos leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan during his retrial July 2, 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

A change in government policy means former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is ineligible to serve his remaining prison sentence of more than two years for political corruption in his Rockville Centre home, federal prosecutors said in a letter to the judge on Skelos' case.

Last week, officials said the 72-year-old Skelos would be released from the federal prison at Otisville in Orange County due to his testing positive for the coronavirus.

But in a letter Tuesday to the federal judge overseeing the Skelos case, federal prosecutors said a recent shift in the Bureau of Prisons policy meant the former senator was no longer eligible.

The prosecutors' letter to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said no decision had yet been made by the BOP on whether Skelos would be furloughed temporarily to serve a part of his sentence at home until the coronavirus crisis has passed, or be granted “compassionate release.”  

Compassionate release can be ordered by a judge if an inmate faces extraordinary circumstances such as a  fatal illness.

Skelos' lawyers complained Tuesday in their own letter to Wood that they 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 ten days, Skelos’ attorneys wrote in papers filed in federal court in Manhattan Tuesday, ”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 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.

Last week Southern District federal prosecutors told Wood just that Skelos had tested positive for the virus, had been placed in quarantine, and had shown no symptoms of  the disease. There was no mention of quarantine conditions or the collapse that Skelos’ attorneys alleged.

In a second letter Monday, Southern District prosecutors said that officials at Otisville on Monday had gotten “updated guidance” from the Bureau of Prisons that the prison should revert to the BOP’s pre-coronavirus policy that inmates were not eligible for home release until they had served 50% of their sentence.

Skelos had so far only served 30% of his 51-month sentence, the prosecutor reported the BOP as saying.

Skelos and his son Adam were convicted in 2018 in connection with the elder Skelos using his position to pressure businesses into giving the younger Skelos  $300,000 in bribes and extortion payments.

Skelos’ attorneys did not return requests for comment. A BOP spokeswoman, Sue Allison, said she could not comment on individual cases.

Skelos is not the only prominent federal inmate who might not be released because they do not meet the 50% criteria. Among them is Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former attorney.

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