ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday revealed for the first time that he has spoken with federal prosecutors about the pay-to-play corruption case brought against several people with close ties to him.
“I have talked to them about the case,’’ Cuomo told reporters after an economic development event Thursday afternoon in Albany.
Cuomo said the discussion – he could not immediately recall the date – “was about the case they were bringing or were brought” against nine people, including his longtime friend and confidante Joseph Percoco.
The meeting came “after the charges were made public,’’ he said.
Cuomo also left open the possibility that he could be on the witness stand whenever a trial date is set, likely sometime next year.
“I could be. I don’t envision it, and no one has suggested it,’’ Cuomo said.
“I think the question is more it’s up to the defendants in who they call in their defense. So, you don’t really know now,’’ he added.
Percoco and seven other people were arrested in September in a case by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in Manhattan that began with a probe of how bids were selected for the SolarCity plant at RiverBend in Buffalo. Among those charged – and since indicted last month – were former SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kalyoeros, who had been Cuomo’s point person on major upstate projects, and LPCiminelli head Louis Ciminelli, the big Buffalo general contractor executive whose firm won a more than $750 million contract to build the factory in Buffalo. Two other top LPCiminelli executives were also indicted in the case.
The defendants have all denied the charges.
Cuomo said the meeting was held “in preparation for Joe’s case, in preparation for the case they were indicting against the nine defendants.’’ Cuomo did not provide any details about the nature of his meeting with prosecutors.
Cuomo told reporters he would provide the date of his meeting. Shortly after the governor's remarks, the governor's office was asked to disclose the date.
Melissa DeRosa, the governor's chief of staff, issued a two-sentence statement, without information about the date. "As part of our continuing cooperation, the governor voluntarily made himself available and shared his knowledge of facts potentially relevant to the case. Out of respect for the pending matter, we will have no further comment, and refer any additional questions to the Southern District.” The Southern District is the federal U.S. Attorney's office handling the case.
The case deals with alleged bribes, extortion and other alleged corrupt acts involving the Buffalo project, a central New York economic development project and alleged bribe money paid to Percoco by an energy firm looking to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley. Prosecutors have not said if any other individuals are targets in their probe. Ciminelli and some of the others involved in the case have been major contributors to the governor’s campaign, a point Bharara noted in the indictments last month and charging documents in September.
A ninth individual – former lobbyist Todd Howe, who has been associated with Cuomo for decades – pleaded guilty in September to a number of felony counts in what prosecutors have charged were bid-rigging in various projects, including the Buffalo Billion deal awarded LPCiminelli. Howe has been cooperating with prosecutors since June.