State Senate Leader Dean Skelos: ‘I Am Innocent’

New York Senate Majority Leader Sen. Dean Skelos (R-District 9) (C) talks with colleagues in the Senate chamber on June 16, 2011 in Albany, New York.  (Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)
New York Senate Majority Leader Sen. Dean Skelos (R-District 9) (C) talks with colleagues in the Senate chamber on June 16, 2011 in Albany, New York. (Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

State Senate Leader Dean Skelos—who will be arraigned this afternoon on charges of extortion and soliciting bribes—is proclaiming his innocence in an alleged scheme to steer money to his son.

“I am innocent of the charges leveled against me. I am not saying I am just not guilty, I am saying that I am innocent,” Mr. Skelos said in a statement issued by his spokeswoman. “I fully expect to be exonerated by a public jury trial.”

Mr. Skelos, a Republican and the powerful leader of the State Senate, is accused of directing companies with business before the state—including a real estate firm and an environmental technology company—to give business to his son, Adam Skelos. The younger Skelos was eventually hired as a consultant by the environmental technology firm, which sells water filters to municipalities, though Adam Skelos said himself he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff,” according to the complaint.

The complaint relies on wire taps, interviews, and two cooperating witnesses, from both the real estate firm and the environmental firm. It alleges that Mr. Skelos, after funneling the real estate and environmental business to his son, went on to vote favorably to the real estate industry on rent regulations and tax abatements and facilitated the awarding of the contract to the environmental firm. He also lobbied on behalf of the firm—unsuccessfully—to allow fracking in the state.

The charges come just as Albany is gearing up, yet again, to deliberate on issues critical to the real estate industry with which Mr. Skelos has enjoyed a tight relationship—laws on both rent regulations and the 421a tax abatement are about to expire. It also comes just months after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was charged with taking bribes and kickbacks and disguising them as legitimate outside income, leading him to step down from his leadership post.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Skelos—who, with Mr. Silver and Gov. Andrew Cuomo made up Albany’s “three men in a room”—will step down as Senate Leader.

Mr. Skelos is expected to be arraigned later this afternoon in a downtown Manhattan federal court. State Senate Leader Dean Skelos: ‘I Am Innocent’