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Justices Toss NY Corruption Cases, Limiting Prosecutions

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the bribery conviction of Joseph Percoco, an ex-aide to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a ruling that further limits the ability of federal prosecutors to pursue corruption cases, Reuters reports. The justices ruled in favor of Joseph Percoco, Cuomo's former executive deputy secretary who was charged in 2016 as part of a corruption crackdown by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. In Percoco's case, the jury was required "to determine whether he had a 'special relationship' with the government and had 'dominated and controlled' government business," wrote Justice Samuel Alito. "We conclude that this is not the proper test for determining whether a private person may be convicted of honest-services fraud." Percoco was convicted in 2018 and sentenced to six years in prison for seeking $315,000 in bribes for helping two corporate clients of Albany lobbyist Todd Howe seeking state benefits and business.

Thursday's ruling was the latest in recent years in which the court has limited prosecutors in political corruption cases. In 2020, it overturned the convictions of two aides to Republican former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the "Bridgegate" political scandal. In 2016, it threw out Republican former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell's bribery conviction. The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case involving Percoco and a related one involving former construction company executive Louis Ciminelli. The Supreme Court also overturned Ciminelli's conviction on Thursday. Percoco referred to the payments as "ziti," a type of pasta that became a term for money by characters in "The Sopranos" mobster TV series. At the time of the actions at issue, Percoco was no longer serving as Cuomo's aide but instead managing the governor's 2014 re-election campaign, a fact his lawyers said meant he could not be convicted of bribery. The case involving Ciminell focused on Howe's role as a consultant hired to help administer Cuomo's $1 billion revitalization initiative for the Buffalo area - dubbed the "Buffalo Billion."


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