AMHERST, N.Y. — A lot has changed over the last three weeks with the so-called Buffalo Billion trial. Prosecutors have reached a plea deal with one defendant, dropped all charges against another, and most recently convinced a judge to delay the trial by a week.
"What I think we're seeing is the prosecution trying to guarantee a conviction," legal analyst Steven Cohen, HoganWillig Law Firm, said.
Cohen said this kind of movement is not all that unusual in a case as high profile as this one, in which the defendants are accused of scheming to rig the bidding process for several major state contracts.
"It's what the prosecution always does, which is it tries to turn witness or try to turn defendants in their favor," he said.
Analyst John Elmore said the biggest development was the plea deal of Kevin Schuler, a former executive for Buffalo developer LPCiminelli.
"The government would not have reached a plea agreement with Kevin Schuler if they had not a strong belief that he had substantial information that would aid them in the prosecution of this case," he said.
Not long after, prosecutors decided not to move forward with bribery charges for any defendants and dismissed all the charges against another LPCiminelli executive, Michael Laipple. Cohen said it’s likely due to a combination of Schuler's cooperation and the fact former lobbyist Todd Howe, who was accused of coordinating the bribes, is not expected to testify after admitting to breaking his own plea deal during a previous trial.
"I think it speaks to the government's concern with the strength of its case and it also speaks to their desire to flip the remaining defendants," he said.
Among the remaining defendants is the former head of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Alain Kaloyeros, as well as the primary executives for LPCiminelli and Syracuse-based COR Development. Cohen still believes the target could ultimately be a person not currently facing charges.
"The nexus is the governor's reelection campaign fund that was endowed by both of these entities, COR Development, Kaloyeros allegedly, and Ciminelli, so that's why I think that this is more about the governor than anything else," he said.
Elmore pointed out "there has been no information whatsoever linking the governor" to the allegations, which he said is important to note.
Meanwhile, the analysts believe the judge will look carefully at a renewed motion to try the Syracuse developers separately, although Cohen says severing the trial with just weeks to go is unlikely.