ALBANY - Allies of State Sen. Dean Skelos have begun raising funds for his legal defense, establishing a website and sending out letters seeking contributions.
The site, skelosfamilylegaldefensefund.com, asks for donations to help Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), the former Senate majority leader, and his son, Adam, who have been indicted on federal extortion and bribery charges. The backers criticize U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara -- though not by name -- and claim "a central strategy of the prosecution is to place the Skelos family in severe financial hardship," limiting Skelos' ability to mount a defense.
On its home page, the website says: "The Skelos Family Legal Defense Fund is inclusive, welcoming those who not only know, respect and admire the Skelos family, but understand that the basic principle of presumed innocence is being destroyed by deliberately seeking to force the defendants into bankruptcy and thereby prevent an effective defense."
The website doesn't list a contact, other than a post office box. But three sources who received the letter said Charles Shields, a Long Island accountant, is listed as treasurer. Shields could not be reached.
Bharara on May 4 alleged the senator extorted bribes and campaign contributions from companies in exchange for steering key real estate legislation and rigging a lucrative Nassau County environmental contract for his son's benefit.
Both Dean and Adam Skelos have pleaded not guilty.