Onetime Albany power broker Dean Skelos denied Friday using his position as State Senate majority leader to secure jobs and payments for his son from businesses with legislation being considered by the Senate.
Dean Skelos, testifying for the first time, said he never tied his frequent requests to help Adam Skelos with his votes for bills being sought by a real estate developer, medical malpractice insurer and an environment company. The businesses paid Adam hundreds of thousands of dollars between 2010 and 2015.
“Did you ever intend to threaten any of them [businesses] if they didn’t help Adam?” asked Robert Gage Jr., one of Dean Skelos’ attorneys.
“Never,” Dean Skelos, of Rockville Centre, responded.
“Did you ever intend to trade your office in exchange for something for Adam?” Gage said.
“Absolutely not. That’s not the way I was brought up to conduct myself,” Dean Skelos replied.
Three years ago, Dean Skelos, a Republican, chose not to testify in his and his son’s first trial on federal corruption charges. The retrial was ordered after the Skeloses’ 2015 conviction was overturned because a later U.S. Supreme Court decision redefined one of the crimes that the pair were found guilty of.
The former legislative chieftain also testified Friday that he routinely asked businesses, friends and others to assist his son, who he said had difficulties with schoolwork, alcohol abuse, anger management and having been adopted.
“Adam had certain issues that he was dealing with,” Dean Skelos said in Manhattan federal court. “Quite frankly, I’ve asked a lot of people to help my son. If I had the opportunity to ask somebody to help Adam, I would.”
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 aiding 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, in a decision involving a former Virginia governor, 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.
Friday, Dean Skelos challenged the testimony of Anthony Bonomo, a longtime friend and former CEO of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers in Roslyn, who told the jury that he gave a $78,000-a-year low-show job to Adam Skelos at the behest of the senior Skelos.
However, Dean Skelos testified that Bonomo, not him, initiated Adam Skelos’ hiring by the medical malpractice insurance company.
“He said, ‘Dean, would you mind if I offered a job to Adam?’ ” Dean Skelos said, referring to a December 2012 conversation with Bonomo at a holiday party. “I said, ‘That would be wonderful.’ ”
Dean Skelos also testified Friday that he didn’t coerce Bonomo into keeping Adam Skelos on the insurers’ payroll after he stopped showing up to work and threatened to “smash in” a supervisor’s head.
“My tone was certainly not threatening,” Dean Skelos said, referring to his 2013 telephone call to Bonomo about Adam Skelos’ work problems. “I think what he heard was my frustration with Adam.”
Dean Skelos continued, “This is a 30-year friendship” between him and Bonomo. “Certainly, I’m not going to threaten a friend.”
On Monday, Bonomo testified he couldn’t fire Adam Skelos because he needed his father’s support for legislation that was essential to the survival of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers.
Dean Skelos is the second witness in the defense case, which began Friday. The prosecution concluded its case against the Skeloses on Thursday after 11 days of testimony.
Dean Skelos will return to the witness stand on Monday. His son has decided not to testify. “Yes, a Skelos is testifying but it’s not me,” Adam Skelos told reporters.
Earlier Friday, Dean Skelos recalled how he and his first wife adopted Adam as a baby and how the couple’s marriage soon fell apart.
“I lost my election and the marriage did not work out,” Dean Skelos said, referring to his failed bid for the State Senate in 1982. “For a while, I was the primary caregiver of Adam and we really bonded very closely together.”