Adam Skelos on his way out of federal court in Manhattan...

Adam Skelos on his way out of federal court in Manhattan during his corruption retrial in June 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

A federal judge has refused to grant the request of Adam Skelos, the son of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, to be released from prison because of the potential spread of the coronavirus behind bars.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan did, however, note that Adam Skelos, who is serving a four-year sentence for his corruption conviction, could be released to a halfway house as early as June 4, at the discretion of the federal Bureau of Prisons.

In her decision, Wood said the younger Skelos “has not demonstrated the existence of extraordinary and compelling circumstances in his case. Defendant is 37-years-old, and thus faces a relatively low risk of hospitalization or death from” the coronavirus, Wood said. 

“Defendant does not allege that [he] suffers from any known underlying health condition that would heighten his chances of experiencing severe complications from COVID-19,” Wood wrote in a decision dated Friday. “Without diminishing the seriousness of the pandemic and the present conditions at [the federal prison in] Danbury, the court finds that the danger the defendant faces from the threat of exposure to COVID-19 does not constitute an extraordinary and compelling reason for granting compassionate release."

John Kenney, Adam Skelos’ lawyer, said that his client “regrets” not getting out of prison when he wished, but understands that these are “very tough cases” for a judge to decide.

Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for federal Southern District prosecutors, declined to comment.

Both Dean and Adam Skelos were sentenced to prison in 2018 by Wood after being convicted in a political corruption case.

Dean Skelos, left, and his son, Adam,  leave federal court in Foley...

Dean Skelos, left, and his son, Adam,  leave federal court in Foley Square in December 2015 after a jury found them guilty of corruption at their first trial. Credit: John Roca

The elder Skelos was released to home confinement in April after he had also stressed that he was endangered by the virus because of conditions in prison. Dean Skelos already had tested positive for the virus during his appeal to serve from home, though didn't have symptoms of the disease.

Dean Skelos, 72, is being allowed to finish the remainder of his 4-year, 3-month sentence at his Rockville Centre home by the federal Bureau of Prisons, as part of its program to release more vulnerable prisoners, including the elderly, and stem the spread of COVID-19.

“Extraordinary and compelling” reasons have been the usual standard for premature release of federal prisoners, such as those facing a terminal illness, or a serious physical or mental illness that prevents an inmate from caring for him or herself within a prison situation.

The caveat, even in those instances, is that the inmate does not continue to pose a danger to the community.

Wood said that while she had sentenced him to 4 years in prison, Adam Skelos had previously had one year knocked off his sentence because of successfully completing a drug abuse program while confined. That meant he would be scheduled for release next year, on June 4, 2021, Wood said.

Wood noted that when Adam Skelos was sentenced she had “issued a nonbinding recommendation” that [he] serve the last 9 to 12 months in a halfway house. The Bureau of Prisons makes the final decision.

Jurors convicted Dean Skelos of pressuring three companies with business before the State Legislature, while he was serving as Senate Majority leader, to give his son $300,000, in what amounted to bribes and extortion payments.

In sentencing Dean Skelos, Wood said: “You did immeasurable damage to New Yorkers confidence in the integrity of their government … What is most important is for other politicians to learn that public corruption will be punished in a way that will make them very uncomfortable.”

In sentencing Adam Skelos, the judge, however, noted that the younger Skelos had been making “great strides” in dealing with his substance abuse and other problems in his life.

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