Ithaca, N.Y. — The New York state senator who represents part of Tompkins County is supporting Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was charged Monday in an extortion and bribery case.

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James Seward, who represents a broad region that includes eastern Tompkins County and the city of Oneonta, says that he thinks Skelos — who faces a six-count criminal complaint — should retain his office, according to Newsday.

Sixteen Republicans in the state senate, including Seward, have signed a letter in support of Skelos. Skelos and his son were arrested and accused of “extortion, fraud and bribe solicitation charges,” according to The New York Times.

“We strongly believe that Senator Dean Skelos should remain on as Majority Leader of the New York State Senate,” the letter said, according to WIBX 950.

“He has the leadership we need to move the Senate forward so that we can continue to do the people’s work and finish out this year’s session in a productive manner.”

James Seward. Courtesy of state senator’s Facebook page
James Seward. Courtesy of state senator’s Facebook page

Seward, a Republican, has also gone on record as saying he wants to wait for the adjudication process of the courts.

“At the end of the day, it’s under our judicial system, our criminal justice system, that there’s a presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” Seward said, according to the Daily Freeman News.

Seward’s position is similar to that recently faced by Barbara Lifton, the Ithaca area’s representative in the New York Assembly, when Democrat Sheldon Silver was charged with federal felonies.

At first, Lifton supported Silver as Seward supported Skelos. That decision was criticized by local Republicans.

“Prosecutors aren’t always right, so I’m going to (undertake) independent research based on my knowledge of the speaker … and decide whether it’s necessary for him to step down at least temporarily while these things get sorted out,” she told the Ithaca Voice at the time.

She later reversed course, citing an “ethical cloud,” and called on Silver’s resignation.


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.