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Justices Skeptical Of DOJ Fraud Convictions Tied to Cuomo

The Supreme Court displayed unusual consensus Monday as it signaled the likelihood of overturning fraud convictions in two New York corruption cases involving developers with ties to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration. Conservative and liberal justices suggested both cases brought by anti-corruption crusading former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara relied on faulty legal premises, reports Politico. Much of the debate during oral arguments centered on how broadly the court would word opinions rejecting the theories prosecutors used to win guilty verdicts from juries. The decisions could further a decades-long trend at the high court of limiting what the justices have see as overly expansive use of federal statutes to pursue corruption.

In 2016, the court narrowed the types of acts that can trigger criminal corruption charges when it overturned the convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Four years later, former allies to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie invoked the McDonnell ruling as they got "Bridgegate" convictions overturned. Cuomo was not charged in either case argued Monday, but it didn’t take long for his name to come up. The first case involved the former governor’s convicted former aide, Joseph Percoco, who says payments he took in 2014 should not have been charged as bribes, because he was not on the government payroll and was being paid by Cuomo’s reelection campaign. Percoco attorney Jacob Roth said the government’s bribery theory “strolls recklessly into a constitutional minefield” that could expose lobbyists and informal advisers to criminal bribery charges. In the second case Monday, justices sounded even more skeptical about the convictions of Louis Ciminelli and other defendants on fraud charges related to a bid-rigging scandal that clouded one of Cuomo’s major initiatives — the Buffalo Billion project aimed at boosting economic activity around the that city.


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