U.S. Supreme Court hears Cuomo-era New York corruption cases

U.S. Supreme Court hears Cuomo-era New York corruption cases

WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday started listening to arguments in bids by a former aide to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a businessman to overturn their convictions for bribery and fraud in a few cases that may make it tougher to prosecute public corruption.

The justices have been contemplating appeals by Joseph Percoco and Louis Ciminelli, who have been indicted in comparable cases in 2016 in a corruption crackdown by federal prosecutors in Manhattan centered on the halls of the state capitol in Albany.

In current years, the Supreme Court has restricted the liberty of prosecutors in cases of political corruption. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas questioned throughout arguments why federal prosecutors fairly than state authorities have been concerned in any respect.

“It looks like we’re using a federal law to impose ethical standards on state activity,” Thomas mentioned.

The Supreme Court’s eventual rulings, anticipated by the tip of June, may also have an effect on three co-defendants charged in corruption and fraud cases throughout Cuomo’s tenure as governor involving state contracts price lots of of thousands and thousands of {dollars}.

The expenses in opposition to Percoco and Ciminelli have been introduced in 2016 by former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who additionally prosecuted corruption cases in opposition to prime state lawmakers, together with former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

While Cuomo was by no means charged within the investigation, the Bharara affair revealed in 2016 solid a pall over his administration. Cuomo resigned as governor in 2021 in an unrelated sexual harassment scandal.

Percoco, a former Cuomo aide, was convicted in 2018 of bribery-related expenses for soliciting $315,000 in kickbacks in change for serving to two company shoppers of an Albany lobbyist named Todd Howe search state advantages and enterprise.

Percoco was sentenced in 2018 to 6 years in jail. Howe pleaded responsible and cooperated with investigators. Real property developer Steven Aiello, who prosecutors mentioned orchestrated the bribes for Percoco, was additionally convicted at trial.

At the time of the alleged violation, Percoco now not served in authorities because the governor’s deputy government secretary, however managed Cuomo’s 2014 re-election marketing campaign, a reality his legal professionals mentioned meant he couldn’t be convicted of bribery.

His legal professionals argue that Percoco’s standing as a personal citizen meant that his acceptance of cash to steer the federal government to do one thing confirmed that he was not a legal however a lobbyist who was free to be paid to affect his.

“He did not take the oath of public office, he did not receive a salary from the public treasury, he possessed no legal authority to bind the state or make decisions for it,” Yaakov Roth, Percoco’s lawyer, instructed the court docket. “What he had, like many lobbyists and donors and interest groups and others, was influence.”

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2021 upheld his conviction, discovering that Percoco was assured a job in Cuomo’s administration after the election and wielded appreciable affect within the meantime. on the federal government’s decision-making to impose an obligation on the general public.

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan mentioned that beneath Percoco’s argument, a public official may keep away from legal legal responsibility just by resigning from workplace at any time when he wished to simply accept a bribe after which rejoining the federal government after receiving the cash.

“There has to be something wrong,” Kagan mentioned. “But your theory would suggest that we cannot prosecute the public official under this statute.”

Ciminelli’s case centered on Howe’s function as a advisor employed to assist administer Cuomo’s $1 billion revitalization initiative for the Buffalo, New York, space.

Prosecutors mentioned executives of the 2 firms, together with Ciminelli, who owned a development agency, conspired with Howe and Alain Kaloyeros, who oversaw the undertaking’s grant utility course of, to rig bids to make sure the contracts went to the companies. theirs.

Ciminelli was convicted at trial together with Kaloyeros, the previous president of the Polytechnic Institute of the State University of New York, and builders Joseph Gerardi and Aiello. They have additionally requested the Supreme Court to commute their sentences.

Ciminelli was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months in jail. A decide in July allowed him to be launched from jail on bail after the Supreme Court agreed to listen to the case.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Andrew Chung in Washington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nate Raymond

Thomson Reuters

Nate Raymond reviews on the federal judiciary and litigation. He may be reached at [email protected]

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