Analysis: How the Percoco Guilty Verdict Could Effect the Buffalo Billion Trial to Come

Attorney Paul Cambria Sees Some- but Little- Impact

Dave Debo
March 15, 2018 - 7:10 am

(WBEN)  Three months after  Gov. Andrew Cuomo's former top aide was found guilty of corruption,  three others with much closer ties to Buffalo will go on trial in a related case that is expected to include the same - albeit somewhat discredited- star prosecution witness.

Buffalo's Louis Ciminelli, former president of LP Ciminelli Corp, and former Ciminelli executives Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler stand accused of working with then then SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros to rig bids that ultimately were awarded to LP Ciminelli to construct the state's massive manufacturing plant for Tesla on South Park Ave. in Buffalo, the centerpiece of Cuomo's "Buffalo Billion" effort

And in that case, prosecutors allege -- as they did in the trial of Joesph Percoco - that star witness Todd Howe, a former lobbyist was a crucial part of both corruption deals.

Earlier this week, a jury in Manhattan convicted Percoco on federal bribery and fraud charges Tuesday. Prosecutors say Percoco and his family accepted more than $300,000 in bribes from companies hoping to win lucrative state contracts.  The trial featured e-mails between Howe and Percoco, talking about the exchange of money, referring to it often as "ziti", mob slang used in the HBO mafia drama "The Sopranos"

RELATED:  Corruption trial spurs talk of reform, shrugs in Albany | Hear Cuomo's remarks on the case

But in closing arguments they had to downplay Howe's testimony after he admitted unde oath to attempted credit card fraud and was arrested during the trial because it violated his cooperation agreement with the federal government. 

"All of that is fair game. What it demonstrates is dishonesty on his part, " says WBEN legal analyst Paul Cambria, an attorney with  Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria in Buffalo who adds  " "From a lawyer's standpoint, the (Percoco) trial will have some sort of impact," on the Buffalo Billion/Ciminelli trial, 

"Will it have a direct impact on guilt or innocence? Only if jurors in some way know- and do not disclose that they know-- he testified in another trial that resulted in a conviction. In some ways, that means to them that he is credible," Cambria tells WBEN. 

The Buffalo Billion trial is scheduled in Manhattan for July before US District Court Judge Valerie Caproni, who also presided in the Percoco case.  Having three months between the two trials will allow both sides to adjust for any credibility issues Howe may have heading into that trial, Cambria says.

"For example, defense lawyers have the transcripts available of the main witnesses, where they admitted they were untruthful. So to that degree there is an advantage. they already have them locked in to admitting lies, for purposes of credibility. On the flipside, the prosecution already knows what problems they have with the witnesses so they can address that," he says. 
 Cuomo was not accused of any wrongdoing, but the trial highlighted Albany's pay-to-play culture, in which deep-pocketed business executives vie for the attention of government insiders who oversee billions of dollars in state funding. The timing of the June Ciminelli trial is likely to coincide with heavy campaigning, as Cuomo runs for re-election. 

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