WASHINGTON (WIVB) — On the final day of session, the Supreme Court said they would hear Louis Ciminelli’s case in their next term, which begins on the first Monday of October.
Ciminelli was convicted of fraud and conspiracy in 2018 after a circuit court ruled that Ciminelli and four others rigged the bidding process in the Buffalo Billion project, steering contracts for the Riverbend Project. His company, LPCiminelli, was the general contractor for this portion of the project, which includes the Tesla facility in South Buffalo.
The petition challenges the right-to-control theory, saying the courts do not have the authority to decide the right to control in fraud cases.
“The petition challenges the court’s central legal holding that the right-to-control theory states a valid basis for wire-fraud liability and that, under that theory, the evidence was sufficient,” the petition says.
Ciminelli’s legal team argues the right-to-control theory is flawed, so much so that the Court of Appeals is divided on it.
The Supreme Court takes a small portion of the cases they are presented with. Legal expert Barry Covert calls this a great day for Ciminelli.
“They only take less than 200 cases per year. So it is very significant that the Supreme Court has accepted this case for review,” Covert explained. “Had they denied the circuit petition. He would be done. He would be serving the rest of his time. He would be a convicted felon the rest of his life.”
The debate over the right-to-control theory centers on one question: Which branch of government has the authority to decide criminal fraud liability?
Whether the Second Circuit’s “right to control” theory of fraud-which treats the deprivation of complete and accurate information bearing on a person’s economic decision as a species of property fraud states a valid basis for liability under the federal wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1343.Supreme Court
“He really has an opportunity here for the Supreme Court to rule his way and find that the judicial branch should not be imposing new theories of criminal liability for fraud. That’s should be for Congress to do. They’re the ones who enact the laws,” Covert explained.
Ciminelli began serving his 28-month federal prison term earlier this year in Arizona after the Second Circuit Court convicted him four years ago. If the Supreme Court rules in his favor, he could be a free man with a clean record.
“If the Supreme Court rules in that fashion he will be let out. He will not be a convicted felon. he will serve no more jail time,” Covert said.
The Supreme Court has not released its full schedule for the next term. It is unclear when the hearings and oral arguments will begin.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.