SCOTUS quashes conviction of former Cuomo adviser Joseph Percoco – ReadSector

Joe Percoco

Joe Percoco, former top adviser to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, exits federal court September 20, 2018 in New York City after being sentenced to six years in prison on corruption charges. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the conviction of Joseph Percoco, a former deputy to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. One of two unanimous rulings, the Supreme Court’s opinion comes amid a spate of cases that are making it harder for federal prosecutors to pursue public corruption cases.

Former Manhattan Attorney Preet Bharara filed a lawsuit against Percoco and contractor Louis Ciminelli as part of a series of “Albany on trial” prosecutions that captivated New York tabloids. His office brought down the then-leaders of both branches of the Empire State legislature: the now-disgraced Speaker of the Democratic Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and Republican Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos.

Bharara then turned his attention to the administration building and sued Percoco, then-Governor Cuomo’s former top adviser and family friend, for allegedly accepting illegal payments on behalf of a project developer in the Syracuse area. Ciminelli was convicted in connection with a bid scandal surrounding a project called Buffalo Billions, a Cuomo-backed development project.

All trials ended in jury convictions and lengthy appeals. Silver failed, but Skelos initially succeeded after the Supreme Court ruling in McDonnell v. United States, which narrowed the definition of what constitutes an official act.

In this case, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was prosecuted for arranging a meeting with a donor who had given him gifts worth over $135,000, including a Rolex watch, in credits and travel. A jury found him guilty by quid pro quo, but the Supreme Court found that meeting did not constitute an official act. Skelos used this precedent to secure a retrial, where he was retried under the revised standard.

Now the legacy of this series of anti-corruption lawsuits in New York faces another hiccup in the Supreme Court.

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