The Supreme Court on Monday examined two cases that could lead to further limits on federal prosecutors when examining public corruption cases. Depending on the ruling it could also lead to new perspectives on whether an ex-aide to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was lawfully convicted on bribery charges.
The first case focused on Joseph Percoco’s conduct in accepting a $35,000 payment from a real estate developer while being in charge of managing Cuomo’s re-election campaign in 2014. Percoco has maintained that at the time of the transaction he was not employed by the government, which means that “honest service” duties did not apply.
The second case looks at whether Louis Ciminelli, a real estate developer based in Buffalo, was rightfully convicted of wire fraud after trying to swindle the bidding process for redevelopment contracts in Buffalo. His lawyers have maintained that his actions in trying to ensure that his company would be the winner of the contract did not reach the level of fraud.
So far, the Justices appear to have been sympathetic to both defendants. In Percoco’s case, most of the Justices were also concerned about the precedent that a non government employee being charged would set, and the effects it would have on other figures, including lobbyists.
Prosecutors are claiming that at the time Percoco took the payment from developer Steven Aiello he was temporarily managing Cuomo’s campaign. Percoco was one of Cuomo’s senior aides from 2011 till 2016, with the exception of the eight months when he was managing the campaign.