2nd Circuit cites SCOTUS decision in overturning conviction of ex-NY Senate leader Skelos and son

White-Collar Crime


A federal appeals court has vacated the federal corruption convictions of former New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) on Tuesday, report the New York Law Journal (sub. req.), the New York Times and Reuters. Prosecutors said they would pursue a retrial.

The 2nd Circuit said jury instructions wrongly defined what constitutes an “official act” that can support a bribery conviction. The court cited McDonnell v. United States, a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued after the convictions of the Skeloses. McDonnell said an official can’t be convicted for taking bribes unless he or she takes action or makes a decision on a matter involving a formal exercise of government power.

The 2nd Circuit cited the same Supreme Court decision in July when it overturned the corruption conviction of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Because of the faulty instruction, jurors could have convicted the Skeloses for conduct that is not unlawful, the 2nd Circuit said.

The 2nd Circuit said the Skeloses could be retried because the evidence was sufficient for a conviction by a properly instructed jury.

Prosecutors had claimed Dean Skelos, a Republican, misused his position to pressure companies to give his son consulting work and a no-show job. They were convicted in 2015.

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