MANHATTAN (CN) – Reiterating her desire to send a message to New York’s capital, a federal judge sentenced the former president of the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute to 42 months in prison Tuesday.
“I hope this sentence will be heard in Albany and around the state,” U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni, noting that she said the same words before to other allies of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
With the sentencing today of Alain Kaloyeros, Caproni tied a bow on a state corruption crackdown that has swept up two leaders of the New York Legislature, as well as Cuomo’s former deputy, Joseph Percoco, corporate executives, and a lobbyist.
Kaloyeros appeared penitent before the court this afternoon, saying he was ashamed that his conviction related to the Buffalo Billion development initiative thrust SUNY Poly into the spotlight.
“Because of me, they have found their school caught in the glare of an investigation and a prosecution,” Kaloyeros said, sniffling through an emotional allocution.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky told the judge meanwhile that Kaloyeros threw away a lifetime of achievement to advance his power with the governor.
“I tend to think that this is the most tragic of the sentencings involved in this case,” the prosecutor said.
Affectionately known as Dr. K in Albany-area circles, Kaloyeros rose to academic stardom after moving to the United States from war-torn Lebanon. His attorney Reid Weingarten said that Kaloyeros bore both the psychic and physical scars of that conflict but surmounted them, picking up communication skills along the way from the Israeli Army.
With English as his fourth language, Kaloyeros put SUNY Poly on the map by luring major tech-sector investment.
“It’s almost like a huge Hollywood set,” Weingarten said, referring to the campus.
Weingarten also noted that President Barack Obama praised Kaloyeros’ achievements as a model for Chicago,.
But Podolsky said Kaloyeros had been on shaky ground with Cuomo, and sought to mend that relationship by defrauding a bid-rigging process to favor the governor’s cronies.
Weingarten cast the blame on political realities, however, referencing the decision by prosecutors to drop the bribery charge against Kaloyeros before trial.
“This was not bribery,” he said, emphasizing that his client did not earn a penny on the bids.
“This was just the way the world works,” Weingarten continued.
Describing what happened as a form of pay-to-play, Weingarten put the blame squarely on the governor.
“Andrew Cuomo wanted a development in upstate,” he said. “He wanted competent people to do it.”
For Judge Caproni, the bidding process left doubts about the project’s execution.
“That’s what corruption does,” she said. “It leaves the public with a nibbling feeling that our money wasn’t well spent.”
Together with his co-counsel Michael Miller at Steptoe & Johnson, Weingarten released a statement vowing to appeal the sentence.
“While we are entirely respectful of the jury trial system, we firmly believe that Alain Kaloyeros is an innocent man,” the attorneys wrote. “Alain committed no crimes in connection with his work on the Buffalo Billion program in Buffalo and Syracuse.”
Caproni also imposed a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not release a statement by press time.