Andrew Cuomo’s Aide Faces Bribery Charges

( A one-time aide for former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo argued in front of the Supreme Court Monday that he was unlawfully convicted on federal bribery charges.

The case in question involves Joseph Percoco, a one-time aide for the one-time Democratic governor of New York. During oral arguments on Monday, justices were presented with whether they should impose new limits on prosecutions in public corruption cases.

At the heart of the case is the fact that Percoco received a payment of $35,000 from a real estate developer at the same time he was managing the 2014 re-election campaign for Cuomo. The issue is whether that payment falls under the purview of a federal law that requires all “honest services” be provided to the public.

Percoco’s legal team argued in front of the Supreme Court that their client wasn’t an employee of the government at the time he received the payment, and as such, he wasn’t under any obligation to provide honest services.

In the certiorari brief Percoco’s team filed with the Supreme Court, they argued

“When a public official accepts money to convince the government to do something, we call him a crook. But when a private citizen accepts money to convince the government to do something, we call him a lobbyist.”

Liberal Justice Elena Kagan posed a hypothetical situation in response to that argument. She pondered a situation in which a public official would resign from their position every time they wanted to accept a bribe, and then immediately resumed their duties once the bribe was fully completed.

It’s somewhat of an outlandish hypothetical, of course, seeing as it wouldn’t be so easy for many government officials to resign then start working again. If nothing else, it certainly would raise some red flags for people in the government and the community they serve.

Nicole Reaves, the assistant to the solicitor general, defended Percoco’s conviction on behalf of the Biden administration. She was pressed on Monday by conservative Justice Clarence Thomas regarding the fact that there was no state prosecution of Percoco. The justice argued that that may be an indication that “New York isn’t too upset about this arrangement.”

He continued

“It seems as though we are using a federal law to impose ethical standards on state activity.”

That line of thinking was one that was shared by most of the justices on the high court, regardless of their ideological background, according to a Washington Examiner report.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has narrowed the overall reach of laws regarding federal corruption. Convictions for some were removed in the last few years, including in 2016 for former Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and two confidantes of former Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The Biden administration is arguing in the case that Percoco should be held accountable for his actions snice he was effectively serving as the executive deputy secretary for Cuomo at the time, and was operating out of government offices when he accepted the bribe.