NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A federal appeals court has overturned the 2015 corruption convictions of Dean Skelos, the former majority leader of the New York State Senate, and his son, citing a Supreme Court ruling that narrows the definition of corruption.
Both Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted of extortion, fraud and bribery. Prosecutors alleged that they abused Skelos’ position of power to pressure several companies into giving Adam lucrative work, cash and a no-show job.
Skelos was sentenced last year to five years in prison, and his son got 6 1/2 years. Both have remained free on appeal.
The decision comes months after the same court vacated the corruption conviction of another once-powerful Albany lawmaker, Sheldon Silver, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that changed the landscape for public corruption prosecutions.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruling that reversed the conviction of Virginia Republican ex-Gov. Robert McDonnell raised the standards prosecutors must use when they accuse public officials of wrongdoing.
Skelos’s attorney argued the jury never focused on the question of whether Skelos actually agreed to sell his vote because the jurors were told that simply agreeing to meet with lobbyists was enough to convict, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
“Senator Skelos is grateful for the Court’s careful consideration of the issues and looks forward to the next steps,” his attorney, Alexandra Shapiro, said in a statement. “We believe that as events unfold it is going to become clear that this is a case that never should have been brought.”
PHOTOS: Dean Skelos And Son Sentenced
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said the Second Circuit found that the evidence at trial was more than sufficient to convict Skelos and his son, but “a part of the jury instruction is no longer good law” under the McDonell decision.
Prosecutors said they will retry Skelos and his son.
“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,” Kim said in a statement. “Cleaning up corruption is never easy, and that is certainly true for corruption in New York State government. But we are as committed as ever to doing everything we can to keep our government honest. That is what we will do in this prosecution as well.”
Before their convictions, Skelos and Silver — along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo — were known as the “three men in a room,” who ruled Albany.
Silver is also expected to be retried.