Eight powerful men, including a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo, were in federal court Thursday, entering pleas in a massive state corruption scheme. Courtney Gross filed the following report.
As photographers chased Joe Percoco from federal court, he reminded them of something.
"I used to set up pictures for you, young man," he said.
He is recalling how he used to set up press conferences for the governor. Percoco was the longtime right-hand man for Andrew Cuomo.
Now, he doesn't have much more to say other than not guilty. He entered that plea in federal court on Thursday alongside seven other defendants who are all facing corruption charges.
"We entered our plea of not guilty, and we will be reviewing the evidence before our next appearance, and we will have a comment for you then," said Barry A. Bohrer, Percoco's attorney.
Percoco allegedly accepted hundreds of thousand of dollars in bribes from development executives in Buffalo and Syracuse, who were seeking to do business with the state. Those executives have also been charged.
That includes the former head of SUNY Polytechnic, Alain Kaloyeros, who is accused of bid-rigging in connection with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's economic development program known as the Buffalo Billion.
Kaloyeros has since resigned from his high-profile position. On Thursday, he also pleaded not guilty.
Because there are so many defendants in this case, they took up the entire front row of the courtroom. One by one, they stood up, entering pleas of not guilty.
Prosecutors and the judge questioned whether all of these defendants would make it to trial or whether some of them will take a plea instead. Already, the government is working with one of the alleged culprits, Todd Howe, who is an upstate lobbyist and considered a Cuomo loyalist.
Cuomo has not been implicated in the case, but it has been a huge hit for his administration.
"They are very sad. They are sad to me personally. And we will now let the justice system takes its course," he said.
The case will not make it in front of a jury any time soon. Attorneys will take months to review evidence, including 2 million pages of documents and 2 terabytes of data.