Skelos: Decision to step down ‘difficult’ but ‘right’

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(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Sen. Dean Skelos said he relinquished his role as the state Senate’s majority leader to avoid being a distraction as the state’s legislative session draws to a close.

Skelos, R-Nassau County, stepped down from his powerful post Monday, clearing the way for fellow Long Island Sen. John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, to succeed him. The switch came one week after Skelos, 67, was charged with corruption in a six-count criminal complaint.

In a lengthy statement Monday evening, Skelos said the media spotlight on his alleged wrongdoing has taken a toll on his family. He said he stepped down so he didn’t “distract” from the Senate.

“The past seven days have taken a tremendous toll on my entire family, including my wife, my son, my 94-year-old father, my brothers and sisters, and two young grandchildren, who have all been unfairly placed under the media’s spotlight,” Skelos said. “Most recently, a news photographer was in my son’s backyard and the disruption caused my 2-year-old grandson to fall and split his lip open.”

Skelos continued: “This scrutiny was more real and more eye-opening than I could have ever imagined when I asked the members of our conference to stand by me last week. With that in mind, I have decided to step down as Temporary President and Majority Leader of the New York State Senate.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged Skelos on May 4 with six felony counts of extortion, conspiracy and soliciting bribes.

Skelos has maintained his innocence. He hasn’t yet been indicted by a grand jury.

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