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Alfonse D'Amato testifies he warned Dean Skelos his son might lose his job

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, left, exits a federal

Former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, left, exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan after testifying at the retrial of Dean and Adam Skelos on Tuesday. Credit: Charles Eckert

Former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato testified Tuesday he warned Dean Skelos in 2013 that his son was in danger of losing his insurance sales job and, with it, badly needed health insurance.

“I told the senator that his son was not coming in when he should . . . There were a number of occasions where he was disruptive in the office,” D’Amato said, referring to Adam Skelos’ job at Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers.

D’Amato, of Lido Beach, continued, “It appeared to me that he [Adam Skelos] would be let go if something wasn’t done. He was going to be fired. I did this as a friend.”

The conversation between the Republican politicians took place on April 12, 2013, about three months after Adam Skelos started working at PRI for $78,000 per year in the low-show job. He had been hired at the medical malpractice insurance company in Roslyn at the request of then-State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who could advance several bills that were essential to PRI’s survival, according to testimony.

Asked how Dean Skelos responded to the warning, D’Amato said, “He didn’t seem surprised. He didn’t overreact.”

Also Tuesday, D’Amato, under cross-examination by one of Dean Skelos’ attorneys, acknowledged that Anthony Bonomo, then CEO of PRI, hired Adam Skelos because he felt sorry for him and had been friends with Dean Skelos for more than 30 years.

“He didn’t suggest that he felt threatened by Dean Skelos?” asked Skelos' attorney Alexandra A.E. Shapiro, referring to Bonomo, 60, of Woodbury.

D’Amato responded, “No.”

“Dean Skelos did not arrange a job for Adam at PRI, based on your discussions with Anthony Bonomo, correct?” Shapiro asked.

“Yes, that’s correct,” D’Amato said.

Tuesday’s testimony by D’Amato, a three-term U.S. senator, differed from his account in the Skeloses’ first trial in December 2015. On both occasions, he testified for the prosecution.

Tuesday, neither the prosecutor nor attorneys for the Skeloses brought up Dean Skelos’ effort to get his son a job with D’Amato’s lobbying firm and D’Amato’s subsequent refusal to hire the younger Skelos.

“I thought the appearance would be one that raises questions about conflicts,” D’Amato said in 2015.

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

The retrial comes after the Skeloses’ 2015 convictions were reversed because of a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, which defined more narrowly 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.

Dean Skelos, 70, and Adam Skelos, who turns 36 on Wednesday, both have denied wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty.

The Rockville Centre pair are accused of multiple quid pro quo schemes with three businesses that paid Adam Skelos hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In 2013, Dean Skelos didn’t tell D’Amato whether he planned to reprimand his son for his poor work performance at PRI, according to D’Amato, whose Park Strategies lobbying firm was paid $30,000 a month by PRI to help secure passage of legislation, primarily in Albany.

As D’Amato testified Tuesday on the 26th floor of Manhattan federal court, his estranged wife watched the proceedings via a fuzzy video feed in a courtroom on the 12th floor — under the supervision of a court officer. Katuria D’Amato had sought to be in the same courtroom as her husband, saying her presence was tied to an ongoing custody battle over the couple’s two small children.

Katuria D’Amato said barring her from the courtroom was a violation of her constitutional rights.

Spokesmen for Al D’Amato and U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said they played no role in where Katuria D'Amato was permitted to watch the Skeloses' retrial proceedings. The office of U.S. District Court Judge Kimba M. Wood, who is presiding over the Skeloses' retrial, referred questions to District Executive Edward Friedland, who oversees courthouse operations. Friedland declined to provide an explanation for banning Katuria D’Amato.

The retrial continues Thursday.

With John Riley


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