United States v. Skelos, No. 18-3421 (2d Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Second Circuit affirmed Defendants Dean and Adam Skelos' convictions on multiple public corruption charges. Dean was a Republican senator from Nassau County, and was the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate. Defendants, father and son, were convicted in 2015 of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right; extortion under color of official right; conspiracy to commit honest services fraud; and solicitation and acceptance of bribes and gratuities. Defendants' convictions stemmed from their involvement in the Glenwood, AbTech, and PRI schemes.
In 2016, while defendants' appeal was pending, the Supreme Court decided McDonnell v. United States, which narrowed the definition of the "official act" that a public official must exchange for benefits in order to be convicted of Hobbs Act extortion or honest services fraud, where those crimes have been defined by reference to the term "official act" in the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. 201. In 2018, a second jury convicted defendants on all counts.
The court concluded that any error in the jury instructions in the wake of McDonnell were harmless; the language in the indictment was sufficient where the language in an indictment is not required to be as precise as the attendant jury charge, nor is it required to delineate how the government will prove the elements set forth in the indictment; the district court empaneled a fair and impartial jury, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue; there is no basis to vacate defendants' conviction under 18 U.S.C. 666 where a special verdict form specified that the jury found each defendant guilty under section 666 on both the gratuity theory and the unchallenged bribery theory; the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to quash certain subpoenas and there was no infringement of defendants' Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights in the district court's denial of requests for documents that were irrelevant, inadmissible, obtainable by other means, or part of discovery fishing expeditions; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing. Finally, the court rejected Adam's evidentiary challenges and his challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence.