WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A prosecutor alleged in opening statements Tuesday that the deputy majority leader of the New York Senate lied repeatedly to FBI agents, in order to cover up that he arranged a high-paying job for his son with a politically connected law firm.
In his opening statement at the trial of state Sen. Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton), Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Allee alleged that Libous told the law firm’s partners that if they hired his son Matthew, he would steer so much business their way “they could build a new wing on their office.”
Libous’ attorney, however, derided the government’s case, claiming there is no recording of what Libous told the FBI and noting there are no charges beyond the accusations of false statements.
“No one has accused Tom Libous of kickbacks, bribery, or using his position to get a job for his son,” defense lawyer Paul DerOhannesian said.
Libous, 62, is charged with lying seven times in 2010 to agents who were investigating government corruption. The agents wondered how his son Matthew got a $150,000-a-year job with a White Plains law firm in 2005.
Prosecutors claim Thomas Libous, then a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, arranged for the law firm to pay $100,000 of the salary and an Albany lobbying firm to funnel $50,000 more to the law firm.
“When he denied his involvement, when he denied his knowledge, those were lies,” the prosecutor said.
The first witness was Richard Ostroff, a partner in the lobbying firm who signed the checks to the law firm. He said the law firm was retained “because Matthew Libous worked there.” He also said he was unaware of any services the law firm provided.
Anthony Mangone, who was a partner in the law firm, is the key prosecution witness in the case. Allee acknowledged to the jurors that Mangone has pleaded guilty to charges of bribing politicians and evading taxes and was cooperating in hopes of lightening his sentence.
The defense lawyer said that gave Mangone a motive to lie.
“He’s dishonest. He’s corrupt. He’s morally bankrupt,” DerOhannesian told the jurors.
Mangone has worked for former Republican state Sen. Nicholas Spano, another among several New York state lawmakers who have been charged or convicted in recent years. They include the former leaders of both houses, Republican Sen. Dean Skelos and Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.
DerOhannesian claimed Mangone’s law firm never received any business from its connection to Thomas Libous. Its agreement with Matthew Libous ended after a year.
DerOhannesian also said the FBI agents came “out of the blue” in 2010 to quiz Libous about events that happened five years earlier, which he said could account for some “confused” answers. He asked the jury to consider whether any false statements were purposeful and willful.
Neither side’s opening statement referred to Libous’ physical condition. He has advanced cancer, walks stiffly and uses a special padded chair in the courtroom.
He could be sentenced to five years in prison if convicted. His son has been sentenced to six months for tax fraud. Matthew Libous’ surrender was delayed so he could attend his father’s trial, and he was seen outside the courthouse as his father left for the day.
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