ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has overturned two notorious convictions. One involving Joseph Percoco, a former aide to Governor Cuomo and the other involving Alain Kaloyeros, former top official to SUNY Polytechnic.
In 2018, Percoco was charged with accepting over $300,000 worth of bribes in exchange for helping two corporate clients of Albany lobbyists. Kaloyeros was convicted of conspiring to rig $885 million worth of bids for state contracts that were part of Cuomo’s one billion dollar investment, known as the “Buffalo Billion.”
So why are these convictions being tossed out by the Supreme Court? Professor, Vincent Bonventre at Albany Law school, said for Percoco’s case, the Court determined that the trial judge explained his crime in a way that was too broad for the jury. “Perhaps what Joseph Percoco did was illegal, maybe it was more in terms of bribery but the way the trial judge explained the crime to the jury was far too broad and covered all kinds of innocent conduct,” he said. Now the Supreme Court has sent the case back. “So the courts below now have to figure out, whether in fact, the prosecution did prove beyond a reasonable doubt what actually is a crime. They’re gonna have to try to sort that out. That’s gonna be very, very difficult,” explained Bonventre.
And for Alain Kaloyeros, civil litigation attorney Paul DerOhanessian said his case was wrongfully prosecuted under an arbitrary theory known as ‘right to control.’ “And what’s interesting is it’s a theory that many other courts had said doesn’t exist. It was actually only in this area and this appeals court that said that it was a valid theory.” DerOhannesian said the Kaloyeros case was prosecuted under the idea that he and others withheld information from the government that they had a right to know. “The argument here was not that the violations here led to the making of money, the argument was that the information was withheld from decision makers. And the court said, that just doesn’t exist in the statute. That’s too expensive. That’s too broad of a reading as to what the federal law says,” he said.
DerOhannesian noted that moving forward with these cases could be a pivotal moment in prosecuting white collar crimes and clearly defining statutes in the law. “What constitutes a crime? I think that’s one of the other messages to keep in mind, that we can take out of these cases. Why it makes sense to have a clear understanding of what it’s illegal. And the court is concerned about that,” he said.