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Prosecutors seek delay in Buffalo Billion trial, after new evidence comes to light

ALBANY – Federal prosecutors want a delay in the Buffalo Billion corruption trial because a document they call “highly relevant” to charges against two former LPCiminelli executives was not turned over to them by the Buffalo firm in response to a grand jury subpoena seeking evidence into the alleged pay-to-play case.

Lawyers for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan Thursday requested a one- to two-week delay in the trial date, scheduled for June 11, based on new information they received from Kevin Schuler, a former top LPCiminelli executive who recently pleaded guilty for his role in the matter and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

A federal judge on Friday morning ordered the sides to attend a conference in her Manhattan courtroom next Tuesday afternoon to consider the government's trial delay request.

At issue is an email exchange between Schuler and an unidentified executive at Buffalo’s LPCiminelli that occurred six weeks before the state in 2013 issued a request for proposals to select a preferred developer for projects associated with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program.

The program, subsequently awarded to LPCiminelli, included the state’s investment of $750 million in a solar manufacturing plant at RiverBend.

Prosecutors alleged three LPCiminelli executives – Louis Ciminelli, Michael Laipple and Schuler – were engaged in a scheme with Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Todd Howe, a former lobbyist and Cuomo insider, to allegedly steer the Buffalo Billion development deal to LPCiminelli.

Howe pleaded guilty to his role in the Buffalo Billion matter and another case and has been cooperating with prosecutors.

In the documents they were not initially provided, prosecutors alleged in court papers there appears to be evidence that “reflect a conversation of ideas” about how the request for proposal, or RFP, might be drafted, including language that might make the bidding documents “unique to LPC,’’ or LPCiminelli. Handwritten notes accompanying the email were dated September 5, 2013.

The RFP was issued by an entity created by the State University of New York.

In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni dated Thursday, prosecutors said lawyers for LPCiminelli said the document in question was not produced because a reviewer apparently associated with the Buffalo firm labeled it “non-responsive” to the subpoena request issued June 26, 2015, court papers state.

Prosecutors told Caproni that they issued a new request two days ago using nine search terms for documents in a narrow time period in 2013. They said Daniel Oliverio, a lawyer for LPCiminelli as well as Louis Ciminelli, indicated in a response that 1,500 new documents will be submitted to comply with the request. The documents are expected to be turned over to prosecutors early next week.

Prosecutors said they expect their side of the trial to be wrapped up in two to three weeks, noting the duration will lead to a trial not expected to last up to the six weeks earlier projected by the judge.

The Buffalo Billion trial comes after the recent corruption conviction of Joseph Percoco, a trusted adviser of Cuomo and his family.

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