Justia Summary

Percoco served as the Executive Deputy Secretary to New York Governor Cuomo from 2011-2016. During an eight-month hiatus in 2014, Percoco resigned from government service to manage the Governor’s reelection campaign; he accepted payments totaling $35,000 to assist a real-estate development company in dealings with Empire State Development, a state agency. Percoco urged a senior ESD official to drop a requirement of an agreement with local unions as a precondition to receiving state funding. ESD informed the company the following day that the agreement was not necessary.

Percoco was convicted of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1346. The court instructed the jury that Percoco could be found to have had a duty to provide honest services to the public during the time when he was not serving as a public official if the jury concluded that “he dominated and controlled any governmental business” and that “people working in the government actually relied on him because of a special relationship he had with the government.” The Second Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court reversed, finding the jury instruction erroneous. The instructions did not define “the intangible right of honest services” with sufficient definiteness. The Court cited its 2010 “Skilling” rejection of the prosecution’s argument that section 1346 should apply to cases involving undisclosed self-dealing by a public official or private employee, While a person nominally outside public employment could have the necessary fiduciary duty to the public “the intangible duty of honest services” does not extend a duty to the public to all private persons.