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Ex-State Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos seeks release from federal prison, citing coronavirus fears

Dean Skelos exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan

Dean Skelos exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan during his corruption retrial in July 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

Former State Sen. Majority Leader Dean Skelos, once one of the more powerful politicians in the state, is seeking to be released from federal prison early because of the coronavirus epidemic, according to court papers.

The motion by the Rockville Centre Republican asks that he spend his remaining sentence outside prison in home confinement because of the risk of contracting the illness. Skelos has more than two years left on his 51-month sentence for political corruption.

Skelos is one of a number of inmates at federal prisons and detainees in federal jails in Brooklyn and Manhattan awaiting hearings or sentencing, who have filed motions seeking to be  released from confinement because of the coronavirus.   

On Monday, a federal judge on Long Island denied such a request by an accused terrorist from Commack, Elvis Redzepagic.

Skelos' request for release, filed Monday in federal court in Manhattan, was opposed by Southern District federal prosecutors in their own court papers filed Tuesday.

The prosecutors noted that if Skelos, 72, felt his health made him at risk for contracting the coronavirus “his primary residence is in New York state, which as noted in his submission, is currently the global epicenter of the coronavirus.” The prosecutors added though that Skelos “does not specify his desired place of release.”  

Skelos, who began serving his sentence on corruption charges in January of 2019 at the federal prison in upstate Otisville, in Orange County, filed his motion for release under seal.

But the details of his request were outlined Tuesday by federal prosecutors in their publicly filed opposition papers. The prosecutors said that Skelos' motion was premature, because he had not yet exhausted his administrative remedies by seeking release directly from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Prosecutors argued the BOP “is uniquely positioned” to assess the former politician’s situation.

“Only the BOP, for example, can provide the Court with detailed information on Skelos’s present health condition, his behavior since being incarcerated, his recidivism score, and the relative risks in Otisville as to his desired place of release,” the prosecutors said.

If Skelos’ health is a key issue arguing for his release, for example, the prosecutors said his motion is supported apparently only by “a medical consultant … who does not appear to have examined Skelos."

The prosecutors also wrote “Skelos has offered no evidence to suggest the BOP is not taking the pandemic seriously, and, to the contrary, the BOP has made significant efforts to respond.”

Skelos was convicted in July 2018 of using his governmental position to shake down businesses to get $300,000 in jobs and fees for his son,  Adam. Both Skelos and his son were convicted on eight counts of conspiracy, extortion and bribery during a retrial in federal court in Manhattan.  Adam Skelos was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Attorneys for Skelos did not return calls for comment. A spokesman for Southern District prosecutors, James Margolin, declined to comment.