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Judge in state corruption case presided over Silver trial

ALBANY – The judge assigned to federal corruption case involving a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Buffalo businessman Louis Ciminelli and six other individuals is already familiar with Albany corruption.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni earlier this year presided over the trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was convicted of corruption. She sentenced him to 12 years in prison and slapped him with nearly $7 million in fines and restitution.

In the more recent case, Caproni set aside next Thursday morning in her courtroom for the arraignment of the eight defendants charged in a case that began with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara looking at how the Buffalo Billion project was awarded.

The eight individuals in the new case – former Cuomo adviser Joseph Percoco, former SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros, Ciminelli and two other executives of Buffalo contracting company LPCiminelli, as well as executives at a Syracuse development firm and an out-of-state energy company – are due to appear before Caproni 10 a.m. on Dec. 1.

Caproni has served as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan since 2013 after President Obama nominated her in 2012.

Prior to her appointment, she was a law clerk, prosecuted criminals and was employed in a top Manhattan law firm.

For eight years, she was general counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and was a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York for a total of 10 years, including stints as chief of the organized crime and racketeering unit and chief of the criminal division. Prior to becoming a federal judge, she was a vice president at Northrop Grumman Corp.

The Wall Street Journal last year profiled the  Georgia native while she was presiding over the Silver trial, in which she would drop Southern colloquialisms along chidings to defense and prosecutor lawyers to keep things moving at a brisk pace.

“If you could both please just try to be courteous to each other,” the Journal quoted the judge, a University of Georgia Law School graduate, telling two of the lawyers on the competing sides in the Silver trial. “Otherwise, I’m going to feel like I’m at family Thanksgiving every day when we’re squabbling about the sweet potatoes for the 80th time.”

In May, as she sentenced Silver, Caproni lashed out at the ex-Speaker for letting the public down. The thing about corruption, she told him, is “it makes the public very cynical.”

She cited Silver’s age for not giving him a longer prison sentence.

She said the harm to people in the state was “incalculable” but real by the actions of Silver, who was convicted of trading the power of his office to personally enrich himself.

Silver’s trial began last November and ended with his May sentencing. Silver is appealing his conviction.

In the matter of Percoco, Ciminelli, Kaloyeros and the other defendants, it is uncertain when trials will get underway, though some of the defense lawyers indicated Tuesday that they look forward to the process playing out in courtroom – indicating no appetite for plea bargain deals.

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