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Corruption trial opens, witness say Adam Skelos threatened him

Adam Skelos arrives at a federal courthouse in

Adam Skelos arrives at a federal courthouse in Manhattan for his retrial, Tuesday, June 19, 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

Adam Skelos threatened to “smash in” his boss’ head after being questioned about not showing up for work at a Roslyn insurance company, the boss testified Wednesday in Skelos’ retrial on federal corruption charges.

“He said, ‘Guys like you couldn’t shine my shoes,’” said Christopher Curcio, former sales and marketing vice president at Physicians Reciprocal Insurers, a medical malpractice insurance firm. “ ‘Guys like you don’t amount to anything. And if you talk to me like that again, I’ll smash your [expletive] head in,’ ” Curcio quoted Adam Skelos as telling him.

Anticipating the damaging testimony, Skelos’ attorney earlier on Wednesday told the jury in opening statements that his client “should be and is truly ashamed” about threatening his supervisor with physical injury.

Curcio of Floral Park was the first prosecution witness to be called in the retrial of Skelos and his father, Dean, former State Senate majority leader.

The prosecution alleges that Adam Skelos was employed by the insurer, but was required to do little work and couldn’t be fired, because the company needed Dean Skelos’ support for the renewal of a law crucial to the company’s survival.

Curcio said Wednesday that Adam Skelos repeatedly referred to “an arrangement” between Dean Skelos and Physicians Reciprocal CEO Anthony Bonomo that required the younger Skelos to sell malpractice insurance only two days a week for an annual salary of $78,000.

Bonomo had known the senior Skelos for about 30 years. Bonomo had “mentioned to me that he was helping out his friend Dean Skelos” by hiring Adam Skelos, Curcio testified.

The Skeloses, both of Rockville Centre, are accused of using Dean Skelos’ position as one of state government’s three most powerful individuals to secure jobs and payments for Adam. In return, Dean Skelos promised to look favorably on legislation desired 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 after the Skeloses’ 2015 convictions were reversed when the U.S. Supreme Court more narrowly defined the kind of quid pro quo bribery scheme a public official must engage in to be convicted. The high court said a public official must do more than make a telephone call or set up a meeting.

Physicians Reciprocal, together with a real estate developer and environmental company, paid Adam Skelos hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, commissions and other payments between 2010 and 2015 at the behest of Dean Skelos and in return for the senator’s votes on key bills, according to the indictment.

The jury was shown Adam Skelos’ time sheets, where he said he worked 35 hours per week. However, his supervisor testified the time sheets were inaccurate and refused to sign them.

Earlier on Wednesday, Adam Skelos’ attorney Julian Brod said his client “was not the employee of the month” at Physicians Reciprocal. “He was kept on for the same reasons that he was hired: he was the son of an old family friend and because he had a sick kid at home,” the lawyer said.

Adam Skelos took the insurance company job after another job ended, and with it, health insurance for himself, his wife and their young son, Dean Skelos Jr., who has autism, according to the lawyer.

Adam Skelos also never sold a medical malpractice insurance policy because he failed six times to pass the exam necessary to obtain a required sales license, according to testimony and records.

Earlier, in opening statements, jurors heard conflicting portrayals of the Skeloses.

“You are going to hear some ugly things in this trial,” Brod told the jury in opening arguments for the defense. “I beg you to keep an open mind.”

Federal prosecutor Douglas Zolkind said Dean Skelos pressured companies with business before the state to give his son jobs, medical insurance and commission payments. The senator allegedly threatened to scuttle legislation that the companies wanted.

“These business people paid Adam Skelos because they had no choice,” the prosecutor said. “It was the price they had to pay to ensure that Senator Skelos used his official power to benefit them and not to crush them.”

Dean Skelos’ attorney Robert Gage Jr. said his client never used his role as an Albany power broker to break the law. The lawyer said there was “never a criminal exchange” when the senator asked a company to help his son.

“The idea that these businesses feared some lone-ranger action” by the Skeloses “is simply not credible,” Gage said, adding Dean Skelos couldn’t push through legislation without the support of his fellow Republicans.

The retrial resumes Thursday.

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