Federal prosecutors, faced with a defense request to move the "Buffalo Billion" case from Manhattan to Buffalo, filed a new indictment Thursday.
There are no new charges or defendants in the "superseding" indictment, but there were changes in how the government presents its allegations of bribery and bid rigging in Buffalo and across the state.
The changes appear to be a response to the local defense team's motion to move the trial to Buffalo, said Terrence M. Connors, who represents one of the three Buffalo defendants.
Three of the eight defendants – Louis Ciminelli, Kevin Schuler and Michael Laipple – are from the Buffalo region, and one of the projects at the heart of the statewide public corruption prosecution is the plant LPCiminelli built for SolarCity at RiverBend.
"There are no new charges against the Ciminelli defendants," said Connors, who represents Schuler. "The government restructured the narrative in the indictment, but from our standpoint, there are no substantive changes. We're preparing for trial."
Connors and Daniel C. Oliverio, a lawyer for Ciminelli, said the changes in the indictment reflect the government's desire to have one trial, not two.
"There is absolutely no material change to the allegations of the indictment, and we remain eager to address these meritless charges head on in a courtroom," Oliverio said.
U.S. District Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni in Manhattan, who is presiding over the prosecution, is expected to rule on the defense motion for a change in venue during the summer.
The judge's choices are one trial in Manhattan with all eight defendants on Oct. 30, or two trials, one in Buffalo on Oct. 30 and a second with the other five defendants in New York on Jan. 8.
The change in trials also would come with potential political consequences, most notably the next election for governor. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has past ties to several defendants, is expected to run for re-election.
The defendants include Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Cuomo, and Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
Kaloyeros led the Buffalo Billion project.
Todd Howe, a defendant in the original criminal complaint, has since pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.
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