A three-judge federal-appeals court panel has overturned the 2015 federal corruption conviction of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Skelos, and his son Adam Skelos, were found guilty of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy counts. Once the most powerful Republican leader in the state senate, Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison.
This reversal comes just two months after the same U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the federal fraud conviction of former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. In both cases, the judges relied on last year’s unanimous Supreme Court decision regarding the conviction of former Virginia Bob McDonnell. In that 2016 ruling, the Supreme Court justices said the definition of what constitutes “official acts” of public corruption had been too broad.
The appeals court ruled in Dean Skelos’s case — and similarly with Silver’s — that since the McDonnell case was decided after both of these Albany pols went down, it “cannot conclude that the charging error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The convictions of Skelos and Silver marked two of the most significant New York public-corruption prosecutions in recent years, part of a crusade to root out misconduct in Albany led by then–U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan look ready to retry Dean Skelos and his son and bring Silver to trial again, too.
“While we are disappointed in the decision and will weigh our appellate options, we look forward to a prompt retrial where we will have another opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence of Dean Skelos and Adam Skelos’s guilt and again give the public the justice it deserves,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement. “Cleaning up corruption is never easy, and that is certainly true for corruption in New York State government.”