|ALBANY – Sen. Thomas Libous, the state Senate’s second-ranking Republican and a Southern Tier political institution for more than two decades, was convicted Wednesday of lying to the FBI, a felony that will force his removal from office.
A jury found Libous, 62, guilty of lying to federal investigators during a 2010 interview at his state Capitol office about an alleged scheme to use his influence to get his son a job at a politically connected Westchester County law firm.
The verdict, after six hours of deliberations, was announced in White Plains federal court. Libous’ ouster from office will raise new questions about whether Democrats or Republicans will control the 63-seat chamber when they return to Albany in January.
Libous will be sentenced Oct. 30 and faces up to five years in prison.
“Today, a jury unanimously found that Tom Libous, the second highest ranking New York senator, told lie after lie to hide the truth from federal agents investigating corruption in Albany,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “Libous’s lies have been exposed, his crime has been proven, and Albany will be the better for it.”
The case is the latest ignominious day for the state Legislature, which has had nearly 40 members face ethical woes since 2000. Both former legislative leaders — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County — were indicted this year on federal corruption charges as Bharara has vowed to clean up the Capitol.
Libous nor his attorney indicated whether they would appeal the verdict. Outside the courtroom, Libous thanked his supporters.
“They’ve been very supportive to me, and from the bottom of my heart, they’ve been great,” he said.
Libous, R-Binghamton, has been a powerful politician since 1988, when he was elected to replace longtime Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson. He has had a close relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and has wielded influence in his district and at the Capitol.
He is the Senate’s deputy majority leader, serving as the Republican majority’s floor leader — a position he kept even after his legal woes. Libous is also facing cancer he says is terminal, which started in his prostate and spread to his lungs. He missed a large portion of the legislative session this year because of his health troubles.
His son, Matthew Libous, was sentenced in May to six months in prison for tax evasion, but he has been free until his father’s case was done.
The senator’s expulsion from the Legislature’s upper chamber leaves Republicans with 31 seats in the 63-seat chamber, one seat short of a majority. But Sen. Simcha Felder, D-Brooklyn, sits with the GOP, which maintains the party’s last grasp on power at the state level.
So there will likely be renewed pressure on Felder to join the Democratic conference — as well as calls for the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, which has been aligned with Republicans, to coalesce around Democrats to take the majority.
With Libous out, the 52nd District Senate seat will remain open until November unless Cuomo calls a special election before then. The winner would serve out the remainder of Libous’ term, which was set to expire at the end of 2016.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, said Republicans are “100 percent confident” they will retain Libous’ seat. Citing Libous’ “health challenges,” Flanagan said he and his family will “continue to be in our thoughts and prayers in the weeks and months ahead.”
Libous earned $79,500 as a state lawmaker and an additional $34,000 for serving as deputy leader.
Libous’ trial started July 13, and the senator’s attorney on Monday called only one defense witness: U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy, who admitted he was not close with the senator but said Libous has a reputation for honesty.
Libous was accused of lying to FBI agents that he had nothing to do with his son getting the job and had no idea about any relationship between the law firm and an Albany-based lobbying firm.
Prosecutors contended that the senator was in frequent contact with lawyer Anthony Mangone in late 2005 to get Matthew Libous a job at the Westchester firm of Santangelo Randazzo & Mangone. Mangone, a disbarred lawyer seeking leniency in his own legal case, testified that Libous arranged for the job and then to have the lobbying firm of Ostroff Hiffa & Associates pay a third of Matthew Libous’ $150,000 salary.
Mangone testified that Libous promised to deliver enough business to the firm to “build a new wing” in exchange for hiring his son. Libous’ attorney Paul DerOhannesian questioned the integrity of Mangone, who has cooperated with authorities shortly after his own indictment in January 2010, and also knocked the fact that the FBI interview was not tape recorded and that no transcript existed.
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, said the region’s state delegation would not be derailed by Libous’ conviction.
“This is a sad ending to a long career serving our community,” Lupardo said in a statement. “Senator Libous and I worked together for many years on behalf of the Southern Tier. It’s important that we remain focused on addressing the critical issues our area faces.”
Blair Horner, legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said Libous’ case is another reason for ethics reform in New York government.
“Late last month a coalition of civic organizations called on the governor to convene a special session devoted to ethics before the end of the calendar year,” Horner said in a statement. “It is a call that the governor should heed.”
Follow Jon Campbell on Twitter @JonCampbellGAN.
Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, will be sentenced Oct. 30 on one count of lying to the FBI. He will have to vacate the Senate seat he has held since 1988. He faces up to five years in prison.