Former Brooklyn Democratic Senator and one-time majority co-leader John L. Sampson has just been convicted on three of nine counts, including two counts of making a false statement and one count of obstruction of justice.
Being felonies, Sampson is out of office immediately.
Sampson, 50, was elected to the Senate in 1996 and came to statewide prominence in 2009 when he became Democratic Senate conference leader, sharing the top job with Malcolm Smith for the brief time the Democrats held a majority in the Senate.
Smith was convicted in February of bribery charges in an unrelated scandal. He had been voted out of office in November.
Sampson’s conviction was the second senatorial felony conviction this week.
On Wednesday former Republican Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous of Binghamton was convicted of lying to an FBI agent. And the convictions come as the former leaders of the Senate and Assembly majorities, Republican Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, also face federal corruption charges. Both men were removed from their leadership roles last session but remain in office and are awaiting trial.
In addition to the convictions of Libous and Sampson on felony charges, US Attorney Preet Bharara added two criminal charges to the indictments against former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, this week:
State Senator Dean Skelos and his son Adam had two new federal-bribery and extortion charges added to the buffet of corruption charges they were already facing this week. Adam Skelos was hired by a medical malpractice insurance firm that was then lobbying his father. A week after the new gig started, his supervisor wanted to set up a meeting to discuss the fact that "Adam Skelos had not reported for work for more than one hour during the previous four days," according to an updated indictment released on Tuesday.
Skelos called his supervisor back and allegedly threatened to "smash in" his head, adding that "guys like" him "couldn’t shine [Adam Skelos's] shoes." In case his desire to get paid without attending work was not yet clear, Adam allegedly ended by noting that he didn't have to go to work because his father was Dean Skelos. He then called up his father to complain that he was being harassed at work.
The company allegedly kept Adam Skelos employed because it was afraid of losing access to the state senator, according to the court documents.
Skelos has set up a website where you can donate to the criminal defense funds for both himself and his son because, you know, they're innocent and are just having their reputations dragged through the mud by an overly zealous, overly ambitious U.S. attorney:
The purpose of this Fund is to assist in providing the financial resources required to mount an effective legal defense for Dean and Adam Skelos in recognition that a central strategy of the prosecution is to place the Skelos family in severe financial hardship and thereby put them at a strategic disadvantage in the courtroom.
Those who support the Fund believe in the personal integrity of Dean and Adam Skelos but, equally important, in the belief that this calculated and cynical prosecutorial strategy of breaking a defendant financially and manipulating media leaks must be confronted, and the only means of doing so is by providing financial support that allows for the retention of a strong defense team.
The Skelos Family Legal Defense Fund is inclusive, welcoming those who not only know, respect and admire the Skelos family, but understand that the basic principle of presumed innocence is being destroyed by deliberately seeking to force the defendants into bankruptcy and thereby prevent an effective defense. The courthouse steps are littered with the reputations of men and women who were indicted, then vindicated by a jury, only to find that a verdict of innocence left them destitute and broken.
Those who are part of the Skelos Family Legal Defense Fund will not let that happen to Dean and Adam Skelos.
Heartwarming, isn't it?
I don't know about you, but when I think personal integrity, I think of Adam Skelos and his patron dad, Dean.
A couple of years ago, I called Dean Skelos's office to lodge a complaint about the APPR teacher evaluation system and find out if Skelos supported a system where teachers were evaluated using test scores from tests that were rigged for high failures rates or a system where teachers were rated using scores from tests in subjects they don't teach or scores from students they don't teach.
The hack who answered the phone read off some boiler plate about state Senator Skelos supporting the accountability of teachers and schools, thus supporting the use of the APPR teacher evaluation system because it held teachers (and by extension, schools) accountable for student achievement.
Ironic that Skeos, who supported a rigged system of evaluation against teachers and a system that unfairly rates teachers using test scores from subjects they don't teach or students they don't teach, is now whining about having his reputation and career destroyed by an overly zealous, overly ambitious prosecutor unfairly targeting him, since he didn't seem to have much concern about any unfairness in APPR.
For years now, Albany politicians have been happy to use the language and rhetoric of the education reform movement to claim teachers are lazy, incompetent sots and/or outright criminals who need to be "held accountable" for their performances or fired.
Many of these Albany politicians are themselves lazy, incompetent sots and/or outright criminals, as the track record of the political leadership in this state shows:
For those keeping score of the Rogue’s Gallery:
Pedro Espada – arrested, found guilty, serving 5 years
Malcolm Smith – arrested, found guilty, serving 7 years
Tom Libous – arrested, found guilty, sentence pending
John Sampson – arrested, found guilty, sentence pending
Sheldon Silver – arrested, trial pending
Dean Skelos – arrested, trial pending
Andrew Cuomo – pending
“New York is Open For Business”
There has been a host of lower level Albany pols arrested, tried and convicted on corruption charges these past years as well, but I give you the above list to show you how rotten to the core the political leadership in this state is.
On that list you will find the last four state senate majority leaders and the assembly speaker either in jail, waiting to be tried or waiting to be sentenced.
The only pol on that list not yet arrested is Andrew Cuomo, the governor, but there's a theory out there, a pretty good one, that US Attorney Preet Bharara is working his way up the depth chart with Cuomo as his ultimate target:
These new charges (against Skelos) seem to be perfectly in line with Preet Bharara’s history of turning the screws hard on those he’s already busted. He gave disgraced former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver new charges with a superseding indictment and then indicted his son-in-law for running a $7 million Ponzi scheme (his son-in-law recently copped a plea to those charges) just to make sure he got the message. When the formal criminal indictment against Skelos and his son was submitted, it also included a new charge that Adam Skelos had accepted $100,000 in salary and benefits for another no-show job arranged by his father.
Preet Bharara is not conducting a bunch of separate, unrelated investigations. He’s conducting a big one and he’s going about it much the same way he would prosecute a mob case. He’s working his way up the food chain as he busts and pressures the folks under the kingpin, flipping cooperating witnesses along the way. Now he’s indicted two of the infamous “three men in a room” and there’s only one guy left.
The pressure for one of these men to cut a deal just got ratcheted up a few more notches. Soon, there will be one fewer “get of jail free” musical chairs to land on. My money has always been on Skelos to flip first. (Silver isn’t likely spending $1.5 million on lawyers to cut a deal) These new charges just up the pressure on Skelos even more.
I wonder how well Andrew Cuomo is sleeping these days.
I have no problem being "held accountable" for my performance as a teacher so long as the measure of that accountability is transparent and fair.
I do have a problem when the accountability system is so complex and convoluted that nobody can explain it to me, when it is devised not as a true accountability measure but as a punitive measure to target teachers and help districts shed them quicker and easier.
I have an even bigger problem when the politicians passing this system into law and/or imposing it from the governor's mansion are criminals like Espada, Smith, Libous, Sampson, Silver, Skelos and, criminal of criminals, Andrew Cuomo.
It take a lot of chutzpah to push accountability for others when you're as corrupt and criminal as these Albany pols pushing teacher accountability.
But one thing we don't have a shortage of in Albany, other than corruption of course, is chutzpah.