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Key players in the Buffalo Billion bid-rigging trial

The Defendants

Louis P. Ciminelli
Former chairman, CEO, LPCiminelli, Buffalo.
Age: 67
Background: Ciminelli has been one of the Buffalo area’s most prominent real estate developers and general contracting magnates. He has been among the biggest local donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s campaign, giving donations of $25,000 apiece on several occasions before he was arrested in 2016. He has chaired the board of trustees at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, to which he once pledged a $1 million donation, and been a trustee at the Albright-Knox Gallery. When he was a Republican, the now-Democratic businessman was tapped by then-Gov. George E. Pataki as chair of the New York Power Authority, the nation’s largest state-owned power authority. A “significant” health problem for Ciminelli last year delayed the start of the trial until this month.

Alain Kaloyeros
Former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute (Albany/Utica).
Age: 61
Background: A physicist, Kaloyeros was born in Beirut and has been known to show a scar he still has from his late teenage years when he said he joined the Christian militia there during a civil war raging in Lebanon. “Dr. Nano,’’ as one of his vehicle license plates has read, was an influential force in Albany with four different gubernatorial administrations and counted ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, since convicted in separate corruption matters, as among his early political allies. Considered brilliant in his field, Kaloyeros also learned how to navigate Albany’s political class across party lines. He was once the highest-paid state employee and, like Ciminelli, drove a Ferrari. The sprawling nanotechnology campus on the west side of Albany was his brainchild, attracting huge sums of state money, high-tech companies and visits from dignitaries, including President Barack Obama.

With legal and political stakes, Buffalo Billion trial begins Monday

Steven Aiello
President, COR Development, Syracuse
Age: 60.
Background: Aiello co-founded COR Development, a Syracuse-area development firm that has built projects throughout central New York, including a redevelopment project at the Syracuse Inner Harbor, and in other areas, including a strip mall outside Albany and a mixed-used project underway in Arizona. The firm also built a Cuomo-inspired film hub outside Syracuse that attracted no tenants and which the state recently sold for $1, $14,999 above its construction price. Aiello is a former vice chair of the board of trustees at Onondaga Community College. He was found guilty of conspiracy in the recent corruption trial of former top Cuomo adviser Joseph Percoco.

Joseph Gerardi
General counsel, COR Development, Syracuse
Age: 59.
Background: Gerardi is one of the co-founders of COR, which opened its doors in 1998 and has since become the go-to developer in Syracuse. He is a partner in the business with Aiello and serves as the firm’s counsel. Like Aiello and Ciminelli, Gerardi, who lives in the Syracuse suburbs, has given large donations to Cuomo. The Syracuse Post-Standard in 2016, before the developers were arrested, reported COR partners and family members gave nearly $300,000 to Cuomo’s 2014 campaign – more than a quarter of what Cuomo raised in central New York. During that time, the Cuomo administration announced seven major state-funded projects to be built by COR. Gerardi was acquitted for his alleged role in the Percoco bribery trial.

The Judge

U.S. District Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni
Age: 62.
Background: Nominated to the busy Southern District Court by President Barack Obama in 2012, Caproni came directly to the bench from the general counsel’s post at defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. She has been a general counsel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was a prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York and ran the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. She presided over recent corruption trials of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Percoco, a longtime former confidante to Cuomo. Known for her quick wit in the courtroom and impatience with attorneys offering circular points and repetitive questions, her Georgia accent comes out most strongly when she gets upset.

The Lawyers

Robert L. Boone
Age: 36.
Background: With the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2012, Boone was on the legal team in this year’s bribery case involving Cuomo insider Percoco. He is also part of the prosecution team that rocked the NCAA with corruption charges brought last year against 10 people, including four Division I college basketball coaches.

David Zhou
Age: 32.
Background: Started with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in June 2015. “Herb, where the hell is the ziti?” Zhou delivered that as his first line in the closing argument in late February before jurors began deliberating their eventual three felony county guilty verdict against Percoco in his bribery trial. Ziti was the term Percoco used to describe bribe payments. Zhou’s caseload has included an appeals case involving a Russian arms trafficker and prosecution of a West Virginia man for threatening to blow up the Statue of Liberty.

Matthew Podolsky
Age: 35.
Background: Joined federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan in 2015. A New York Times wedding announcement in 2013 said Podolsky was a lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell after having worked as a law clerk for a federal judge in Connecticut. A member of the prosecution team that began looking into the Buffalo Billion case several years ago, Podolsky has been involved with a number of cases as a federal prosecutor, including a Utah man accused of illegally shipping more than $100 million in prescription drugs, a state prison guard accused of conspiracy to rob armored trucks in the Bronx and two men involved in the theft of health and pension benefits from a firm.

The Defense

For Louis P. Ciminelli
Paul Shechtman
Firm: Bracewell, Manhattan
Age: 68.
Background: Shechtman was a top adviser during the administration of Gov. Pataki, serving as his criminal justice czar and later serving as chair of the state ethics and lobbying agencies. He has argued numerous cases before the state’s top court, is a former chief criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. He has had a remarkably broad portfolio of cases representing: Pataki in a landmark case that strengthened governors’ hands in the state budget process; the rapper Lil’ Kim in a much-publicized perjury case; a police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed man in Brooklyn; and won the acquittal of a crane company owner accused of manslaughter in an Upper East Side crane accident that killed two people.

For Alain Kaloyeros
Michael C. Miller
Firm: Steptoe & Johnson, Manhattan
Age: N/A
Background: Lawyer who handles white-collar criminal defense work as well as securities and commercial law cases, he won a ruling in a lawsuit against his client Muhammed Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Islamist self-exiled leader living in Pennsylvania who Turkish leaders have accused of plotting the 2016 coup there. Another current client is a New York businessman seeking $2 billion related to eastern European oil and gas ventures by Russian oil giant Rosneft.

Reid Weingarten
Firm: Steptoe & Johnson, Washington, D.C.
Age: N/A
Background: A high-powered white-collar criminal defense lawyer, Weingarten was named in various media accounts as among the top D.C. lawyers to turn down requests by President Trump to represent him in the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller. He has represented members of Congress, and former top executives embroiled in scandals from Enron and Goldman Sachs to WorldCom and Tyco. A recent acquittal he got involved a former top BP executive charged in the fatal Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

For Steven Aiello
Stephen Coffey
Firm: O’Connell & Aronowitz, Albany
Age: 72.
Background: Founding partner of venerable law firm, Coffey is one of the top criminal and white-collar defense lawyers in Albany, having represented everyone from accused in high-profile murder cases to plaintiffs in major medical malpractice litigation. He represented Aiello in the Percoco case earlier this year; Aiello was convicted in that bribery trial. Coffey helped former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, eventually cleared in two corruption trials, to get more than $2 million from the state to cover his legal tabs, and successfully defended State Sen. Rob Ortt, a North Tonawanda Republican, in the short-lived election law case brought by ex-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

For Joseph Gerardi
Milton Williams
Firm: Walden Macht & Haran, Manhattan
Age: 56.
Background: Williams spoke the least of the four defense teams in the Percoco trial. His client was the sole defendant acquitted. Williams concentrates on white-collar criminal and regulatory cases, as well as employment law and acts as an adviser to numerous corporations. He is a former top lawyer at Time Inc., and in his early career years was a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. He has tried 55 cases that have gone to a verdict. Williams in 2013 was appointed the co-chair of the Moreland Commission, an investigative panel Cuomo formed – and then abruptly shut down – to investigate public corruption matters.

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