NY state senator indicted; accused of lying to FBI

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) - Top ranking New York state Sen. Thomas Libous pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge that he lied to the FBI about using his position to arrange a legal job and an inflated salary for his son.

An indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges that the Binghamton Republican claimed he didn’t know how his son, Matthew, got the job. It also says he told the FBI he was unaware that a lobbying firm was paying part of his son’s salary.

The 61-year-old lawmaker denies the allegations, according to his spokesman, Emmanuel Priest.

“Sen. Libous has served the residents of the Southern Tier with honesty and integrity for the past 26 years,” Priest said. “He’s innocent and he’ll run for re-election.”

According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, Libous arranged his son’s job and salary and promised extra business for the law firm. The prosecutor alleges that Libous persuaded a lobbying firm to pay part of his son’s salary, and then lied to federal investigators about the deal in 2010.

“Public servants should serve the public first, not themselves and their families,” Bharara said in a statement announcing the indictment.

Matthew Libous faces federal tax charges and pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Tuesday. A call to his attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Thomas Libous faces up to five years in prison if convicted. He is due back in court on Sept. 3. Following their court appearances, father and son were released on $50,000 bonds.

Thomas Libous’ attorney said the case amounts to a “difference of opinion.”

“There’s a lot of ambiguity,” attorney Paul DerOhannesian said. “It (the case) seems to be focused on making a crime out of helping your child get a job.”

First elected in 1988, Libous is a key figure in the Senate’s Republican leadership, currently serving as deputy majority leader. Libous has helped orchestrate his party’s return to power in that body in 2010. He is well liked by many in both parties, and has won praise from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who attended Matthew Libous’ wedding last year.

Libous has been undergoing medical treatment since he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009.

Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos said he was saddened by news of the indictment but said he has confidence that the legal system will review “the matter.”

“I have always known Tom Libous to be a hardworking and outstanding representative for his district and all of New York state,” Skelos said in a statement.

The indictment is the latest in a series of criminal allegations that have dogged dozens of state lawmakers in recent years. Last week, Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa pleaded guilty to federal charges that she got married to secure her legal residency and later citizenship. She promised to resign.

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