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Judge rejects change of venue for Skelos retrial

Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, leave federal

Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, leave federal court in Manhattan after a jury found them both guilty in their corruption case on Dec. 11, 2015. Credit: John Roca

Dean and Adam Skelos on Monday lost their bid to have their upcoming re-trial on corruption charges moved out of state, and prosecutors said they would not call former Nassau County Deputy Executive Rob Walker as a witness at the new trial.

Former Senate leader Skelos and his son made their long-shot request to move the case to Pennsylvania or the Midwest based on a claim of prejudicial pretrial publicity, but U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said there wasn’t enough of it to justify a shift.

“They do not show that New Yorkers have been barraged daily or weekly with news about this trial,” Wood wrote in her opinion. “For this reason the coverage has not been ‘massive,’ ‘pernicious’ or ‘pervasive’.”

The two men, both of Rockville Centre, were convicted in 2015 of using Dean Skelos’ power over legislation in the state Senate to squeeze a real estate company, a technology company and a malpractice insurance company into giving jobs or consulting fees to Adam Skelos.

The conviction was reversed when the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed its definition of the type of “official acts” a public official needs to engage in as part of a corruption scheme to be convicted of bribery or extortion. The retrial is scheduled to begin on June 19.

At a pretrial conference on Monday, prosecutors announced they wouldn’t offer testimony from Walker, a key witness at the first trial who gave damaging testimony about how Dean Skelos approached then-Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano at a police funeral to urge funding of a Nassau contract with a firm that had hired Adam.

But since that testimony, Walker’s credibility was damaged by federal charges in February of obstruction of justice and false statements to the FBI relating to questions about a $5000 payment from a county contractor. He goes on trial in September.

Prosecutors in the Skelos case did not signal whether they have evidence of the funeral meeting with Mangano from another source, or will drop the incident from the re-trial.

Dean Skelos, 70, and Adam, 35, were sentenced to five and 6-1/2 years in prison before their convictions were reversed. Dean Skelos lost his Senate position after his conviction, but neither man served time in prison while pursuing their appeals.

Wood also denied a bid to dismiss the indictment based on an incorrect description of the “official act” requirement to the grand jury that indicted the Skeloses, and rejected a request for a hearing on grand jury leaks.

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