WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The Supreme Court was back after the holiday, hearing arguments around a case involving a private citizen and bribery. In 2018, Joseph Percoco was convicted of taking a bribe from a real estate developer. At the time, the former advisor to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was working for his re-election campaign, and not the state.
“Without an agency relationship, the whole concept of bribery really doesn’t make any sense,” Percoco’s attorney Jacob Roth said.
Roth argues because he was a private citizen at the time, taking the money cannot be considered corruption.
“That person is not representing anyone else and doesn’t have a fiduciary duty to anyone else other than his new employer,” Roth said.
Several of the Justices expressed concern that siding with Percoco could open the door for future corrupt politicians.
“A very high public official goes off the government payroll and onto the campaign payroll,” Justice Elena Kagan said.
Kagan said if former government employees aren’t held to some standard, nothing may stop them from resigning before accepting a bribe and then resuming their position over and over again.
“He’s not called the executive secretary anymore, but there’s no other executive secretary around and he has the trust of the Governor,” Kagan said.
But Justice Neil Gorsuch said for private individuals, it may be difficult to separate bribery from legally hiring a lobbyist.
“Why not? This town is full of such persons. Presidents have had kitchen cabinets since the beginning of time,” Gorsuch said.
A ruling is expected sometime before next summer.