Former New York Senate majority leader Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday on federal corruption charges -- the second major political figure in the state to be banished to a long incarceration in less than two weeks.
The once-powerful politician and his son, Adam Skelos, were both found guilty in December of extortion, bribery and fraud.
"You have caused immeasurable damage to New Yorkers' confidence in the integrity of government," U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said to Skelos.
The judge then handed a harsher sentence to 33-year-old Adam Skelos: six years and six months in prison.
"Your enthusiasm for criminal schemes, including your bullying," the judge said to him, "and your use of burner phones, and your physical threats, were extreme."
Wood also recommended drug and alcohol treatment for the younger Skelos.
The judge fined Dean Skelos $500,000 and ordered him to forfeit more than $300,000 in ill-gotten payments. She ordered his son to forfeit $334,000.
Skelos and son declined to comment outside the courthouse and moved quickly to a waiting SUV as news reporters and photographers swarmed.
A woman reporter in the group told police she was jostled by a man who grabbed her cellphone and tossed it into the street. An officer subsequently charged Basil Skelos, 27, with third-degree assault, police said.
The elder Skelos said before sentencing that he was "deeply remorseful" about his actions.
"It has destroyed my reputation I worked so hard to earn," he said, "and terribly hurt my family."
Skelos asked the judge to show mercy toward his son.
"I always tried to protect him," he said. "Somehow I let things go off the rails and for that I apologize to Adam."
Adam Skelos then told the court that he was embarrassed by his alleged criminal acts.
"I deeply regret what I have done," he said. "I was reckless. I was arrogant."
He then asked the judge for leniency for his 68-year-old father.
"When I was arrested with my dad, I watched the destruction of the man who always showed me unconditional love," he said, choking back tears.
"You are sitting here because of me," he said to his father. "I am sorry."
During the trial, the government had accused the elder Skelos, a Long Island Republican, of strong-arming three companies with a stake in state legislation - a major real estate developer, an environmental technology company and a medical malpractice insurer - into giving his son about $300,000 for a no-show consulting job and a payment of $20,000.
The scheme unraveled when investigators began recording phone calls between the father and son.
The judge interrupted attorney G. Robert Gage as he spoke on behalf of Skelos to ask why the father did not reach out to his many friends to help find his son a job rather than use his position to extort companies.
"I wish I could answer that question," Gage said. "I certainly wish it had not happened."
Prosecutors had recommended a stiff sentence near or within advisory guidelines of roughly 12 to 15 years for Dean Skelos and 10 to 12 years for his son
Defense attorneys argued at trial that the tapes and other evidence showed only that Dean Skelos was a devoted father looking out for his son, and that overzealous prosecutors were overreaching. The defense had taken a similar position in court papers seeking probation instead of prison time for both defendants.
Skelos is the second once-powerful New York politician sentenced to prison in a spate of corruption cases that roiled Albany. In April, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was sentenced to 12 years behind bars in his bribery case.
Skelos and Silver were among a group dubbed the "three men in a room" in Albany, a nod to the longstanding practice of legislative leaders and the governor negotiating key bills behind closed doors. They were the highest-ranking of the more than 30 lawmakers have left office facing criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct since 2000.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara noted that the convictions of both leaders of the state legislature is unprecedented.
“In the span of just 16 months, we have seen the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of both leaders of the New York State legislature," he said. "And while Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the two cases "show there is zero tolerance for those who use public service for private gain.
"Today, the guilty were punished and justice prevailed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.