Defense Tries to Undercut Key Witness in Ex-Senate Leader’s Case

Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. (Photo: Facebook)

Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos with friends. (Photo: Facebook)

Lawyers for former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, today took on the real estate leader who testified earlier this week that the pair pressured him and his company to provide the younger Mr. Skelos with sources of income.

The attorneys challenged both the statements and the motives of Charles Dorego, executive vice president and general counsel to luxury developer Glenwood Management, about why he helped secure the Skelos scion work at a wastewater treatment start-up firm he and Glenwood’s founder owned large stakes in and got the 33-year-old large payments for selling title insurance for the real estate giant’s properties. The defense highlighted that the elder Mr. Skelos, when asking Mr. Dorego to “help” his son, never made any explicit threat to obstruct the State Senate passage of the controversial 421a tax abatement for new construction or to cooperate with efforts to strengthen tenant protections or pass campaign finance reform.

“Did he ever say to you, gee, if you don’t do something for Adam, I won’t support the real estate positions I’ve been supporting?” Robert Gage, the Nassau County state senator’s lawyer asked.

Mr. Dorego answered in the negative.

Mr. Gage argued that Mr. Skelos had always and would always take the real estate industry’s side, which he indicated proved that the legislator was not going to punish Glenwood in Albany should Mr. Dorego fail to set up his son with work. For proof, he pointed out that Glenwood founder Leonard Litwin, who retired from the company’s daily operations in 2013, was a longtime supporter of Mr. Skelos and his members, treating the State Senate leader as “an asset to the real estate industry.”

The lawyers also cited several subpoenaed emails where Mr. Dorego touted the hiring of the younger Mr. Skelos as a coup for Abtech, which was looking to expand into Long Island and could benefit from ties to a powerful politician. They also pointed out that Mr. Dorego was entitled to a percentage of all sales of Abtech’s technology because he referred him to the company.

“You wanted him to be doing something where he could be making you and the Litwin family money,” insisted Christopher Conniff, representing the politician’s son.

Mr. Dorego, however, maintained that his intention was to keep Glenwood’s direct transfers of money to the state senator’s son to a minimum.

“I was trying to avoid doing more business with Adam,” he said. “It made Mr. Litwin uncomfortable. It was something that we did not want to do.”

Mr. Conniff also highlighted that money from the title insurance sales the younger Mr. Skelos was involved in had also been redirected to a personal associate of a Glenwood executive and to the nurse of Mr. Litwin’s late wife—neither of whom had handled any of the work—and suggested that those transactions were the ones Mr. Dorego had sought to conceal. Mr. Dorego denied it.

Mr. Gage also called attention to Mr. Dorego’s non-prosecution agreement, noting that the real estate executive could have faced hard time himself had he not agreed to testify against the state senator and his son.

“Cooperate or be charged with a crime? That’s a threat right?” Mr. Gage said.

Defense Tries to Undercut Key Witness in Ex-Senate Leader’s Case