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Dean Skelos wants corruption charges tossed, says federal prosecutors manipulated misstatements

Former State Senate Leader Dean Skelos enters Southern

Former State Senate Leader Dean Skelos enters Southern District Federal Court in Manhattan on July 30, 2015. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

ALBANY -- Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says federal prosecutors have been on a "fishing expedition" and have manipulated misstatements and exaggerations by the senator's son to contrive a corruption case against the Rockville Centre Republican, according to the latest court filings by his attorney.

"It appears the wiretaps were more of a fishing expedition than a necessary tool to further the government's investigation," says the motion filed Friday night by G. Robert Gage Jr., Dean Skelos' attorney. The defense attorney called for evidence taken from those wiretaps to be suppressed and not used in the prosecution's case.

Gage argued that federal prosecutors too quickly resorted to wiretaps after more traditional investigative techniques failed to uncover wrongdoing.

The motion disputes a key element of the prosecution's case against the senator and his son, Adam Skelos. The defense attorney says Adam Skelos made "misstatements" about his father's willingness to take official action in Albany to benefit a company that the son worked for, and that Dean Skelos never agreed to "perform official acts."

The motion says there is no evidence that Dean Skelos attempted to steer a Nassau County contract to the company, as charged by prosecutors. The motion now before a federal judge seeks dismissal of two counts of bribery and extortion against Skelos, suppression of intercepted cellphone calls and emails that are a key to the prosecution's case, and a hearing with the judge to review grand jury testimony that could lead to additional legal filings.

The May indictment accused the father and son of using "burner" cellphones, which are disposable and hard to trace, and speaking in code when they suspected electronic surveillance was being used in the investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Skelos and his son, who were arrested May 4, face a Nov. 16 trial in Manhattan. They have pleaded not guilty to indictments charging the men with shaking down a malpractice insurance company for a no-show job with benefits for Adam Skelos, as well as fraud and extortion.

Dean Skelos' attorney declined to comment about the motions Saturday.

Prosecutor Bharara also declined to comment Saturday.

The motion also says federal investigators first looked into Dean Skelos' longtime work as a private attorney with a Uniondale law firm. After finding no wrongdoing, the investigation turned to Adam Skelos, according to the motion.

While serving as a powerful figure in the State Senate, Dean Skelos made as much as $250,000 a year as a lawyer with Ruskin Moscou Faltischek for more than 20 years, according to Skelos' latest ethics filings. The firm put Skelos on a leave of absence after he was indicted.

After initially rallying behind Skelos, Republican senators replaced him as majority leader in May with Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

The motions filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan after hours were first reported by Newsday on Friday night.

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