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Dean Skelos and son Adam Skelos plead not guilty to new charges in corruption case

Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, right,

Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, right, and his son Adam Skelos, left, enter Southern District Federal Court in Manhattan on July 30, 2015. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

A federal judge Thursday set a Nov. 16 trial in Manhattan for Sen. Dean Skelos and his son Adam on corruption charges.

The November date is two weeks after the scheduled start of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's corruption trial, and means criminal cases against two of the state's one-time top officials are likely to unfold at the same time in the Manhattan federal courthouse.

At Thursday's hearing before U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, both Dean Skelos, the State Senate's former Republican leader, and his son pleaded not guilty to a new indictment returned last week in the case.

The latest charges accuse the two of shaking down a malpractice insurance company -- widely identified as Physicians Reciprocal Insurers of Roslyn -- for a no-show job with benefits for Adam Skelos, in return for legislative support.

The two were previously charged with shaking down a developer and an environmental technology firm for title insurance and consulting work for Adam Skelos in return for favors from his father. The two men and their lawyers declined to comment after the hearing.

Dean Skelos left his car with State Senate license plates idling in a "No Standing Anytime" zone in front of the court during his court appearance and plea. His office did not return a message seeking comment on the car.

Skelos and Silver headline a long list of Albany politicians who have been convicted of or face criminal charges, casting a shadow over ethics in the State Capitol. Republican Thomas Libous and Democrat John Sampson, both once powerful senators, were convicted last week, and 10 legislators have been forced out of office since 2012.

Silver was forced to step down in January as speaker after prosecutors alleged he aided a developer and a doctor to generate legal referral fees for himself. His trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 2 before U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni. It's expected to last more than a month.

Skelos, 67, stepped down as Senate majority leader after he and his son, 32, were charged in May with extortion, soliciting bribes and conspiracy. Adam Skelos was allegedly paid more than $300,000 in fees, salary and benefits in the scheme.

The charges paint the Skelos duo's personal behavior in a negative light. They allege that after getting hired at the insurance firm because of his father's clout, Adam Skelos threatened to "smash in" the head of a boss who wanted him to show up at work. Adam Skelos also told the supervisor he wasn't qualified to shine the younger Skelos' shoes, according to the charges.

When Dean Skelos was informed of his son's behavior, the indictment says, he told the CEO of the firm he would have to "resolve any issues" so that his son remained employed.

The government alleges that in return, Dean Skelos pushed legislation allowing the insurer to avoid liquidation while operating with a negative balance sheet.

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