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Federal corruption case tied to Buffalo billion to be tried in NYC

Posted at 6:31 PM, Sep 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-26 19:04:50-04

The federal case against the three executives from L.P. Ciminelli, facing corruption charges tied to Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative, is shifting out of Western New York.

Louis Ciminelli, Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler were all expected in federal court for a preliminary hearing Monday morning. But, that hearing was canceled and the case is now heading to the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.

Western District U.S. Attorney William Hochul is married to the current Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul and many have speculated that if William Hochul tried the case, it would be a conflict of interest. A federal court spokesman wouldn't say whether that connection played a role in the case being transferred down state.

According to officials, the origin of the complaint is out of the Southern District and that's why the case will be tried in New York City. Campaign filing reports show the Ciminelli family contributed $12,000 to Kathy Hochul in July and August 2014, when she was Cuomo's running-mate.

Michael Haselswerdt is a political science professor at Canisius College. He said campaign donations are given for a variety of reasons, including access to the candidate and social status. But, he doesn't believe Ciminelli's contributions are meant to influence the Cuomo administration. “That's peanuts. It's probably given just so she would know he gave it. And, if he ever needed something, and he probably didn't, gave it just on the chance that they might someday want something and want somebody to know who they are.”

A spokesman for L.P. Ciminelli confirmed Lou Ciminelli donated $5,000 to Hochul's campaign. He said Ciminelli also donates to numerous republicans, such as Chris Jacobs and former governor George Pataki, to name a few. The spokesman also said “he chooses candidates who he thinks can most help Buffalo.”
Hochul’s campaign didn’t respond to our requests for comment.