NEW YORK — A former New York state Senate leader testified in his own defense at his corruption trial on Friday, telling jurors that he used his connections to try to get his sometimes-erratic behaving son employment but insisting it was never in exchange for political favors.
Asked several times by his lawyer if he ever intended to trade his political clout to benefit his son, Dean Skelos answered each time with an emphatic "Never." At one point, he added, "That's not the way I was brought up."
The testimony came at the retrial of the once-powerful Republican from Long Island and his son, Adam, in federal court in Manhattan. Prosecutors have alleged that he abused his office by pressuring businesses with legislative needs to funnel more than $300,000 to the son through consulting work and a no-show job.
Earlier in the trial, Anthony Bonomo, the CEO for an insurance company, testified that when Adam Skelos stopped turning up for a $78,000-a-year sales job, he didn't consider firing him because he "didn't want Adam's problem to become a wedge for our legislative pursuits in Albany. I just didn't want to have a problem with the senator."
Dean Skelos, 70, answered the allegations Friday by first describing how soon after he and his first wife adopted Adam as an infant, their marriage broke apart. After that, he said, he became very protective of his son amid his struggles at school, and later a drinking problem and anger issues that made him "get a bit abrasive."
When Adam hit hard times, he said he would encourage him to "move forward, have confidence in yourself, do the right thing."
The former politician repeatedly denied accusations that he threatened and harassed long-time associates like the insurance company CEO if they failed to keep his son gainfully employed. He testified that when his son started having problems at work, he spoke to Bonomo about it, but not in a way meant to intimidate him.
"My tone was never threatening," he said. "What he heard was my frustration with my son."
Skelos also said that there was never a quid-pro-quo involved when he spoke to the businessmen about Adam.
"I didn't see a problem with it," he said. "I asked a lot of people to help my son."
The elder Skelos, who didn't testify in the first trial, was expected to take the witness stand again on Monday to face cross-examination. Lawyers for his 35-year-old son have said he won't testify.
The father and son were convicted in 2015 of extortion, conspiracy and bribery. But a new trial was ordered by a federal appeals court in Manhattan after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the law regarding public corruption as it reversed the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.