Former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted on corruption charges involving landlord Glenwood Management in 2015, will not be heading to prison, following the decision of a federal appeals panel to overturn the politician’s conviction.
The panel voted to vacate the previous ruling following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that clarified the definition of chargeable political corruption, the New York Times reported. It was the same Supreme Court ruling, in a case regarding former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, that also led to the overturning of former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction this July.
In December 2015, Dean and his son Adam were convicted for bribery, extortion and conspiracy in a scheme that involved developer Glenwood Management, which hails from Skelos’ native Long Island. Glenwood, a regular donor to Dean Skelos, arranged for Adam Skelos to receive a $10,000-a-month consulting position with an Arizona-based environmental company, AbTech, in which the late Glenwood president Leonard Litwin was an investor.
Prosecutors argued that Skelos repeatedly asked Glenwood to help his son while he was simultaneously being lobbied on real estate policy by Glenwood executives. Last summer, Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison and Adam Skelos was sentenced six-and-a-half. They remained out of prison while they appealed the convictions, a request from the defendants’ lawyers that was granted by a judge.
But now, the new definition of corruption following the McDonnell decision is more narrow, and as with the Silver trial, the federal panel argued that had the jury been instructed under that updated definition of corruption, it may not have moved to convict Skelos.
“We identify charging error in light of McDonnell v. United States, which was decided after this case was tried,” the panel said, according to the Times. “Because we cannot conclude that the charging error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, we are obligated to vacate the convictions.”
As for Silver, acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim has already announced that he will retry the disgraced former Assembly speaker. [NYT] — Will Parker