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Dean Skelos' attorney urges judge not to impose harsher sentence

Dean Skelos exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan

Dean Skelos exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan during his retrial in July. Credit: Charles Eckert

A lawyer for former Senate leader Dean Skelos has urged U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in a new court filing to disregard prosecution calls for him to get a harsher sentence on corruption charges because of allegedly misleading testimony to the jury at his retrial.

“In arguing for an increased sentence, the government focuses narrowly on Mr. Skelos’ testimony and employs inflammatory and overblown rhetoric to do so,” defense lawyer Robert Gage told Wood, urging the judge to focus on Skelos’ public service and commitment to his family.

Skelos, 70, of Rockville Centre, is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, following his July conviction of conspiring to use his Albany clout to help his son Adam, also convicted, get paid $300,000 by a developer, a stormwater contractor and a medical malpractice insurer.

After a 2015 conviction on the same charges, later reversed, Wood sentenced Skelos to five years in prison. Prosecutors last week urged a stiffer sentence because unlike his first trial, Skelos took the stand at his retrial and, they said, tried to minimize his responsibility for criminal behavior.

The government cited a litany of allegedly disingenuous testimony — ranging from claims that Skelos saw “nothing wrong” with mixing legislative business and efforts to get Adam jobs, to mischaracterizing a Nassau County bar association ethics opinion on legislative positions linked to clients of his law firm.

Prosecutors want him to get at least as much time as Adam Skelos got at the first sentencing, 6-1/2 years. Gage, in his reply filed late Monday, suggested a sentence of less than two years, saying the government exaggerated credibility issues involving Skelos’ testimony.

But he cited only one example — prosecutors’ complaint that Skelos tried to explain his use of coded language with Adam on wiretaps by falsely telling jurors that former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had created “paranoia” by saying in speeches he could “wiretap anybody.”

Bharara, Gage said, had done just that — saying in a 2014 speech that he had the power to “wiretap all of you.”

Prosecutors, the defense lawyer said, were trying to distract the judge from her duty to sentence the “whole person” and pay attention to his “history of public service, lifelong compassion for others, commitment to family, declining physical and mental health, and age.”

In an earlier sentencing memorandum, Gage said Skelos is suffering from depression and drinking more, and has become a key emotional support for his two autistic grandchildren in the wake of the breakup of Adam’s marriage.

Skelos claimed at trial that his behavior was the result of trying too hard to help his troubled son.

Adam Skelos, who will also be sentenced on Wednesday, has told Wood that he is overcoming substance abuse problems and has also asked for leniency.