The federal judge in the upcoming corruption trial of state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son Adam said Monday she will likely admit evidence that the two strategized about using questions regarding the finances of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's girlfriend to weaken him in budget talks.
Manhattan U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood also signaled she was leaning toward admitting wiretapped conversations in which Adam Skelos complained about one of Cuomo's daughters lobbying for a farmworkers bill.
"It's relevant to show the close relationship of Adam and Dean in discussions of legislative strategy," said Wood, who indicated she would reconsider at trial whether the gossipy talks should be kept out because their prejudicial effect outweighs their value as evidence.
Former Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, 67, and Adam Skelos, 32, both of Rockville Centre, are to go on trial Nov. 16 on conspiracy, bribery and extortion charges alleging schemes to use the lawmaker's clout to get his son work with a developer, a malpractice insurer and an environmental company.
In conversations about making an issue of the finances of Cuomo's girlfriend, TV personality Sandra Lee, Adam Skelos told his dad to "keep sticking with it." Prosecutors say the two hoped to get leverage over Cuomo to help AbTech, the environmental firm, in the state budget.
In a series of tentative rulings Monday, Wood also disclosed in a cryptic exchange with a defense lawyer that the defendants want to offer testimony on a secret, sealed matter that she described as "sympathy for Adam" evidence.
Chris Conniff, Adam Skelos' lawyer, told the judge the evidence would show that "certain aspects of Adam Skelos' life were a factor in decisions to hire him," and the evidence went to the "state of mind" of the executives who gave him jobs.
The defense has asked Wood to prepare prospective jurors for evidence that Adam is adopted and has an autistic child. The government alleges that Adam got work from people who wanted to curry favor with his father, but prosecutors say they expect the defense to try to show "friendship" played a role.
In other rulings, Wood said she is likely to keep out of evidence a remark Adam Skelos made about the work that disasters like superstorm Sandy created for AbTech, telling his dad, "Keep it coming, Mother Nature!"
But the judge said she would allow evidence that a lobbyist for the malpractice company, Physicians' Reciprocal Insurers, warned that Adam Skelos' hiring could be a problem for a firm that lobbied his father. Wood said the fact that he was hired anyway showed how dependent the firm was on Dean Skelos.
She also said she was leaning toward admitting a statement Adam Skelos made to the head of a Greek diners group he was pitching for energy-buying services, in which he bragged about his father's power but declined to say what he was implying -- "I'm not going to go there" -- on the phone."That is without question odd language to use if he is trying to sell gas or other utilities," Wood said.