Two criminal trials over allegations of high-level corruption in New York state were both drawing to a close Wednesday on the same floor atop a federal courthouse with dramatic views of the Manhattan skyline.
In a courtroom on one end of a marble-floored hallway on the 26th floor, a jury heard closing arguments in the bribery and extortion case against former state Senate leader Dean Skelos. At the opposite end in a second courtroom, jurors were already deliberating in the case against a former state university president and four developers charged with bid-rigging in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” revitalization program.
At the Skelos trial, the ex-senator from Long Island denied using his position to get three businesses into giving his adopted son, Adam, a job. On Wednesday, attorneys for the father and son argued that prosecutors had failed to show the politician took any cash or other bribes, or that the alleged victims received anything meaningful either.
Robert Gage, who represents Dean Skelos, asked the jury to credit 70-year-old Skelos with taking the witness stand in his own defense.
“Dean Skelos looked you in the eye and said, ‘I did not corrupt my office,’” he said.
In the other courtroom the focus has been on alleged back-room dealing behind Gov. Cuomo’s ambitious plan to invest more than $1 billion in waterfront parks, modern factories and in medical and technology facilities in Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city.
The man who spearheaded the Buffalo effort, Alain Kaloyeros, is on trial along with three developers, including two who were top donors to Gov. Cuomo’s past election campaigns.
Prosecutors say Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University Polytechnic Institute, and the other defendants conspired to cheat on bids for several upstate development projects, including a Buffalo Billion solar-panel plant worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Citing evidence that there was an effort to delete potentially incriminating emails, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky told jurors in closing arguments, “The cover-up in this case proves the crime.”
Defense attorney Michael Miller argued that Kaloyeros made a good faith effort to attract the best developer.
“It was a fair and competitive process,” he said.