NEW YORK CITY — After deliberating for nearly two days, the jury in the Buffalo Billion trial came back with a guilty verdict on all 10 counts against four defendants late Thursday afternoon.
Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli; Steven Aiello and Joseph Girardi, executives with Syracuse-based COR Development, and Alain Kaloyeros, former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, were convicted on charges of corruption over upstate construction projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The trial was a sequel of sorts to the trial that ended earlier this year with the conviction of Joseph Percoco, the former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on bribery and fraud charges. Cuomo was not accused of any wrongdoing in the case.
The statement continues:
"Anyone who has committed such an egregious act should be punished to the full extent of the law."
The Buffalo Billion program was first pitched by Cuomo in 2012, and offered a billion dollars in government money to projects in Buffalo, including the massive Tesla GigaFactory project.
Kevin Schuler, a former LPCiminelli executive, reached a plea deal in May, changing the complexion of the case. Another LPCiminelli executive, Michael Laipple, had all his charges dropped.
Overall, the cases added to the perception of a state government awash in corruption — a difficult perception for incumbents in an election year. All four men are due to be sentenced in mid-October, several weeks before the general election in November.
“Scandals that have ripped through the Legislature and toppled top aides to the governor. New Yorkers deserve better,” said Blair Horner, the legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “Gov. Cuomo must immediately convene a Special Session to address Albany’s Watergate moments.”
Addressing Albany’s myriad corruption cases have come in fits and starts. Ethics reforms measures have been approved in virtually every other legislative session since Cuomo has taken office.
But bills that would address some of the factors that allowed the Buffalo Billion charges in the first place — creating new transparency methods for contracts, restoring oversight powers to the state comptroller — were not approved in the Democratic-led state Assembly.
Marc Molinaro, the Republican candidate for governor, said that while Cuomo was not on trial, "make no question what was really found guilty was the reckless pay to play, incompetence of Andrew Cuomo's administration. He has empowered, emboldened and encouraged individuals to bend the rules, rig the system and defrauded taxpayers. New Yorkers have paid the price of the Cuomo administration's arrogant and blatant disregard for the law. The people of our state deserve better and as Governor I will enact the Albany Accountability Act, to give them a government that puts the people of New York first."
More information is available on the State of Politics blog.