NEW YORK (AP) - New York's former Senate leader, who was convicted alongside his son, Adam, on charges that the once-powerful Republican used his office to extort about $300,000 in salary and other benefits for the son, was sentenced by a federal judge Thursday.
Former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was given a sentence of five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
"You have caused immeasurable damage to New Yorkers' confidence in the integrity of government," she sentencing Judge Kimba Wood.
His son, Adam, 33, was given a harsher penalty of 6.5 years.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara slammed the elder Skelos in a statement issued immediately after the sentence was handed down.
“In the span of just 16 months, we have seen the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of both leaders of the New York State legislature," said Bharara.
"The nearly simultaneous convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, whose corruption crimes were laid bare during fair and public trials, have no precedent. And while Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better. These cases show – and history teaches – that the most effective corruption investigations are those that are truly independent and not in danger of either interference or premature shutdown.
New Yorkers deserve better. https://t.co/X9bHkxAadD— US Attorney Bharara (@PreetBharara) May 12, 2016
Both were convicted in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in December. Defense lawyers had asked in court filings that the father and son be spared a prison term and instead be sentenced to probation.
The dynamics of their father-son relationship took center stage at the sentencing hearing.
Wood interrupted attorney G. Robert Gage as he spoke on behalf of the Long Island Republican to ask why the father did not reach out to his many friends to help find his son a job rather than use his position to extort companies.
"I wish I could answer that question," Gage said. "I certainly wish it had not happened."
Dean Skelos, 68, told the judge that the convictions had destroyed his reputation and asked for leniency for his son.
"It is heartbreaking to stand before you," he told the judge. "Somewhere along the way my judgment became clouded."
The son said he was deeply embarrassed by his actions and regretted what he had done. He choked up as he spoke about his relationship with his father.
"I love him more than anyone in the world," Adam Skelos, 33, said as his father wiped his own eyes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Masimore said it didn't matter that the father and the son were blinded by their love for each other when they committed their crimes. He said that would be like robbing a bank and then saying it was done for the benefit of the family.
"It is a sad day for the state of New York and the people of New York as well," Masimore said. "Dean Skelos knew better."
Prosecutors said in court papers that the father and son sought more than $760,000 in extortion payments, bribes and gratuities and ultimately succeeded in obtaining more than $334,000 to line their family's pockets.
At trial, the government had accused the elder Skelos of strong-arming three companies with a stake in state legislation -- a major real estate developer, an environmental technology company and a medical malpractice insurer -- into giving his son about $300,000 through consulting work, a no-show job and a payment of $20,000. The scheme unraveled when investigators began recording phone calls between the father and son.
On one tape, jurors heard Adam Skelos snapping at a supervisor on the no-show job and saying, "Guys like you aren't fit to shine my shoes." In another, the senator coached his son about the need for discretion amid the state capital's ongoing corruption scandal, saying, "Right now we're in dangerous times, Adam."
A government filing had demanded a stiff sentence near or within advisory guidelines of roughly 12 to 15 years for Dean Skelos and 10 to 12 years for Adam. Defense attorneys asked for probation.
Dean Skelos and Silver were among a group dubbed the "three men in a room" in Albany, a nod to the long-standing practice of legislative leaders and the governor negotiating key bills behind closed doors. They were the highest ranking of the more than 30 lawmakers who have left office facing criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct since 2000.
With the Associated Press