By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday threw out the conviction of former New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that narrowed the conduct that can sustain federal corruption charges.
But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said federal prosecutors can retry Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, for bribery and fraud because the evidence presented at trial was “sufficient” to prove their case.
The ruling came two months after the court also vacated the bribery conviction of former New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, employing similar reasoning.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is pursuing a second trial against Silver. A spokeswoman did not immediately have a comment on Tuesday’s decision.
Skelos, 69, a Republican, was sentenced to five years in prison in May 2016, while his son Adam was sentenced to 6-1/2 years. The elder Skelos was found guilty of using his position as Senate majority leader to pressure three companies seeking his political support into paying his son, including for a lucrative “no-show” job.
Together with Governor Andrew Cuomo, Skelos and Silver were members of the “three men in a room” in the state capital of Albany that hold enormous sway over major legislation.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, finding that routine acts such as setting up meetings or contacting other politicians did not qualify as “official acts” under federal bribery statutes.
The 2nd Circuit said on Tuesday that the jury instructions at Skelos’ trial, which occurred before the McDonnell decision, were therefore improper, through no fault of the judge or the prosecutors. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas)