A New York jury was set to begin deliberations Wednesday in the trial of a former president of the State University of New York's Polytechnic Institute and three developers charged in an alleged bid rigging scheme involving construction projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni read instructions on the law to jurors late Tuesday after two days of closing arguments in a three-week trial that stemmed from an ambitious upstate New York redevelopment plan known as the Buffalo Billion.
Paul Shechtman, a lawyer for Buffalo-area developer Louis Ciminielli, read excerpts of testimony from the government's star witness to jurors to show that his client acted honorably and legally. He had promised jurors in opening statements that the witness would be better for the defense than prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Ciminielli conspired in 2013 with Alain Kaloyeros, then-head of the Polytechnic Institute, to rig bidding for the projects in Buffalo.
Lawyers for Kaloyeros and two developers also on trial told jurors that their clients did nothing inappropriate as they tried to get a project aimed at reviving the upstate western New York region off the ground.
Kaloyeros was praised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo when the plan to spend a billion dollars on a high-technology development was announced. The developers had made significant contributions to Cuomo's 2014 re-election campaign. The Democratic governor was not accused of wrongdoing.
Shechtman said it was not a surprise that Ciminielli's company was chosen to build the Buffalo arm of the re-development project.
"The whole point of this Buffalo Billion project was to have a local developer," Shechtman said.
The lawyer noted that Kaloyeros "was described as a visionary who had brought high-tech and jobs to Albany" and now was being called upon to duplicate the effort in Buffalo and Syracuse.
"Some saw it as 'Mission Impossible,'" he said. "Not Dr. Kaloyeros."
The lawyer said Ciminielli's company was improperly shown a computer presentation about the new development by an over-zealous consultant before other developers saw it, but he added that it gave the company no advantage in the bidding process.