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Dean Skelos' defense attorney says prosecution witnesses are liars

Robert Gage Jr. asserted the star prosecution witnesses falsely testified the former State Senate majority leader coerced them into giving jobs and cash to his son, Adam Skelos, in return for his votes on key legislation.

Dean Skelos leaves federal court in Manhattan during

Dean Skelos leaves federal court in Manhattan during his retrial Wednesday. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The case against former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is based on “lies” told by three executives who testified for the federal government in return for not being prosecuted themselves, Dean Skelos’ attorney charged Wednesday.

Robert Gage Jr., in closing arguments for the defense in the Skeloses’ retrial on federal corruption charges, asserted the star prosecution witnesses falsely testified that Dean Skelos coerced them into giving jobs and cash to his son, Adam Skelos, in return for his votes on key legislation before the Senate.

“The government’s case is built on people you cannot rely on,” Gage said, his voice rising in Manhattan federal court. “These are people who are liars, and have an enormous incentive to lie.”

The witnesses he focused on were a real estate executive who arranged a job and $20,000 payment for Adam Skelos, the CEO of a medical malpractice insurer that gave Adam Skelos a $78,000-per-year low-show job, and Adam Skelos' boss at an environmental company. Each of the three testified for the federal government under agreements in which they won’t be charged unless they lied on the stand.

“If you give testimony against Dean, you get a non-prosecution agreement and keep your job,” Gage said, referring to Charles Dorego, the top lawyer at real estate developer Glenwood Management, who secured employment and the $20,000 payment for the younger Skelos at his father’s behest.

In addition, Dean Skelos’ lawyer, using fiery language, accused a prosecutor of “trying to drive a wedge” between Dean and Adam Skelos by suggesting that the father earlier this week was critical of his son’s actions.

“Absolutely, not true … You have heard for weeks about Dean Skelos’ love for his son,” Gage said, adding he found the assertion by prosecutor Thomas McKay “shameful, I say disgusting.”

McKay then rose from his chair to object to Gage’s comment.

U.S. District Court Judge Kimba M. Wood ordered the lawyers to confer with her for a few minutes, then allowed Gage to continue his closing arguments, which lasted two hours.

Still, Dean Skelos, under cross examination by another prosecutor on Tuesday, appeared to distance himself from his son, saying: “I thought it was improper” for Adam Skelos to receive the $20,000 from a title insurance company in 2013 for doing no work. Skelos testified he did not know until much later that his son hadn’t earned the payment.

Adam Skelos' attorney, John J. Kenney, said Wednesday his client also assumed in 2013 that he was receiving the payment for work he had done.

The Skeloses are accused of using Dean Skelos’ position as one of state government’s three most powerful individuals to win employment and cash for Adam Skelos. In return, Dean promised to vote for legislation needed by those helping his son, according to the indictment.

Dean Skelos, 70, and Adam Skelos, 36, both have denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The retrial comes because the U.S. Supreme Court more narrowly defined the kind of quid-pro-quo bribery scheme a public official must engage in to be convicted of bribery. The high court said a public official must do more than make a telephone call or arrange a meeting.

The Rockville Centre pair are accused of multiple quid-pro-quo schemes with three businesses that paid Adam Skelos hundreds of thousands of dollars. Each company needed Dean Skelos’ vote for key bills before the State Senate.

Earlier Wednesday, Kenney said Dean Skelos’ support for the legislation being sought by businesses that were aiding his son was never in doubt, and his votes didn’t coincide with the aid being provided.

Kenney also denied Adam Skelos had a “no-show job” — as federal prosecutors have charged — and told jurors that Adam did perform work in his $78,000-per-year sales job at Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers, the medical malpractice insurance company in Roslyn led by CEO Anthony Bonomo, a star prosecution witness.

Kenney showed the jury about a dozen emails and calendar entries where the younger Skelos set up meetings for PRI sales people with hospitals on Long Island.

“Yes, it was a cushy amount of money to be paid, but it’s not literally a no-show job,” the lawyer said. “While he wasn’t fit for the job they put him in, he didn’t sit around and do nothing.”

The retrial continues Thursday with the prosecution rebutting the defense arguments.

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