Federal Investigators Looking into Business Dealings of Skelos and Son
Federal investigators are looking into father and son business dealings of a different kind.
The New York Times is reporting that New York State Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam Skelos are the targets of a grand jury investigation into whether or not the elder Skelos used his political influence to help his son.
Authorities are also looking into allegations that Adam accepted thousands of dollars in payments from a title insurance company for which he never worked.
The investigation in the Skelos' alleged activities is part of the federal crackdown on corruption in Albany and follows the arrest of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Formal charges were filed against Silver by United States Attorney Preet Bharara, who is also heading the investigation of Skelos.
The campaign against corruption is nothing new for Bharara, a Democrat, who criticized New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after he shut down his own Moreland Commission. When Cuomo said that he would not personally comment on specifics about the disbandment, whether he himself was the subject of an investigation, or the role of federal prosecutors in rooting out corruption in Albany, Bharara responded by saying that Cuomo is legally free to say whatever he wants. In a February 10, 2015 interview with MSNBC Bharara said, "People are able to exercise their public role in the way that they see fit...I don’t think I, or anyone else, has ever said that any particular person shouldn’t be talking about how he or she made decisions publicly."
While many are applauding Bharara for his work to root out alleged corruption in the state's capital, others are saying that Bharara may be going too far too publicly. In a decision issued April 10, 2015 by United States District Judge Valerie Caproni in United States of America versus Sheldon Silver 15-CR-93 (VEC), Caproni warned that Bharara may perhaps be as eager to make headlines as he is to achieve justice. After Sheldon Silver complained that his case was being tried by Bharara in the court of public opinion, Caproni said:
"The Court starts with several inarguable principles. First, criminal defendants are entitled to a fair trial. Second, the public has a right to know about criminal prosecutions, perhaps particularly those involving charges of public corruption. Third, criminal cases should be tried in the courtroom and not in the press. Finally, people who venture close to the edge of a rule risk falling over the edge. The rules that govern public statements by federal prosecutors regarding accused defendants are designed to balance the first three principles, with a heavy thumb on the side of defendants’ fair trial rights. In this case, the U.S. Attorney, while castigating politicians in Albany for playing fast and loose with the ethical rules that govern their conduct,1 strayed so close to the edge of the rules governing his own conduct that Defendant Sheldon Silver has a non-frivolous argument that he fell over the edge to the Defendant’s prejudice."
Judge Caproni ultimately denied Silver's motion to dismiss on the basis of Bharara's enthusiasm, but not before saying that "...the Court does not condone the Government’s brinksmanship relative to the Defendant’s fair trial rights or the media blitz orchestrated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the days following Mr. Silver’s arrest."
In short, the validity of Bharara's cases against government officials is not helped by the perception that he enjoys the warmth of the spotlight. And, with the latest charges affecting Skelos and Son, the glow of that spotlight is about to intensify.
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