A federal court of appeals overturned a felony corruption conviction of Dean Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos. The father and son will still face a retrial on the charges against them.
Dean Skelos is a Republican from Long Island. He was the former Majority Leader of New York State Senate. In 2015, Dean and his son were found guilty of bribery, extortion, and conspiracy.
On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second District ruled that the jury instructions in 2015 were erroneous. A part of the instructions was not in line with a 2016 Supreme Court decision.
In its ruling, the judges at the appeals court said they were compelled to vacate the convictions because they “cannot conclude that the charging error was harmless beyond reasonable doubt.”
Additionally, the judges made it clear that there is sufficient evidence against Adam and Dean Skelos even if they found a charging error. According to them, the evidence is enough to allow jury with correct instructions to find official acts of crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.
The 2016 Supreme Court decision
The court of appeals based its ruling on the decision of the Supreme Court involving former Republican Governor Bob McDonnell last year. McDonnell was found guilty of corruption-related charges. The Supreme Court vacated his conviction because the jury did not receive correct instruction about the meaning of “official acts.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the McDonnell case came after the conviction of Dean Skelos and his son.
Prosecutors will retry the case against Dean Skelos and his son
In a statement, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim expressed disappointment with the decision. His office intends to retry the case at once.
Joon said, “We will have another opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence” proving the guilt of Adam and Dean Skelos. He added that they can “again give the public the justice it deserves.”
Furthermore, Joon said it is not easy to clean up corruption, which is true in the state government of New York. However, he emphasized, “We are as committed as ever to doing everything we can to keep our government honest. That is what we will do in this prosecution as well.”