Former State Senate leader Dean Skelos is struggling with mental health issues and problem drinking, and has had a “rift” in his relationship with his son Adam, his lawyers said Friday in a plea for leniency at the one-time Long Island power broker’s upcoming sentencing on corruption charges.
“Mr. Skelos has lost nearly everything dear to him,” defense lawyers said in a letter to Manhattan U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood. “He has lost his reputation, his ability to serve the community … his relationship with his son, Adam, and his good health, which has given way to serious depression.”
Skelos, 70, of Rockville Centre, was convicted in July of extortion conspiracy to use his power in Albany to help Adam, who was also convicted, get jobs and fees worth $300,000 from a developer, a Nassau County stormwater contractor and a Long Island medical malpractice insurer.
The two were previously convicted of the same charges in 2015. Wood sentenced Dean Skelos to five years in prison and Adam to 6½, but the convictions were overturned on appeal due to an error in jury instructions.
Skelos’ defense was that he was just a father trying to help his troubled adopted son, but never corruptly linked official favors to his efforts. At the retrial, unlike the first trial, Dean Skelos took the stand on his own behalf — a factor that could complicate his sentencing if Wood thinks he lied.
In his sentencing letter, Skelos defense lawyer Robert Gage relied largely on personal factors, his client’s lifetime of community service and dozens of letters attesting to his selflessness from friends and supporters to argue he should be imprisoned “for the shortest possible time.”
After the first trial, Gage said, Adam Skelos’ marriage broke up, and his wife and two boys, both autistic, came to live with his father and wife Gail, forging a bond with their grandfather that aided their development until they made a “wrenching” move to Florida in May to avoid the stress of the second trial.
Gage urged Wood to keep prison time short and let Skelos perform community service close to Florida in the interests of the grandchildren, who would be hurt by the loss of a father figure, and also asked her to minimize any financial penalty so he can keep paying for special clinical programs to help them.
“A prolonged period of incarceration would risk even more severe setbacks… and an onerous fine would make it impossible for [his daughter-in-law] to afford the necessary treatments to improve the health of her boys,” Gage wrote.
But other than his bond with the grandchildren, Gage painted a grim picture of Skelos. Without giving details, he said that while the ex-senator still “loves his son greatly,” their bond is frayed and Skelos “greatly regrets that the conduct originally intended to help his son went so awry.”
“The overarching heartbreak caused by Adam’s troubles is pervasive,” the lawyer wrote. “It is an unfortunate reality that the strain of this trial has caused a rift between father and son.”
The emotional toll has triggered other issues, Gage told the judge, noting that Skelos' struggles with depression have deepened after years of psychiatric treatment, and a psychiatrist described him suffering “mood swings, social isolation, insomnia… crying jags and overall despondency."
Gail Skelos, in a letter to the judge, described her husband as “broken mentally and physically” and “reclusive, severely depressed and abusing alcohol and using medication daily for depression and sleep.”
“One error in judgment should not destroy my husband’s life,” she told Wood.
Lawyers for Adam Skelos in a separate sentencing memo filed late Friday asked Wood to sentence him to only a year and a day in prison. They said he had matured since the events that led to his conviction, including abusive treatment of employers and others —receiving therapy, addressing substance abuse, preparing to remarry, and re-uniting with his birth parents.
Both Skeloses are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 24.