Lit­tle joy as jus­tice faces fallen leader

Albany Times Union - - PERSPECTIVE - REX SMITH ■ Rex Smith is ed­i­tor of the Times Union. Con­tact him at [email protected]­

Jus­tice is at hand, it seems, for Alain Kaloyeros, the bril­liant physi­cist and nanoscience re­searcher who pros­e­cu­tors say cor­rupted Gov. An­drew Cuomo’s up­state eco­nomic devel­op­ment ini­tia­tives. His co-con­spir­a­tors, ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the graft that he en­abled, have al­ready heard their prison sen­tences, and a fed­eral judge is set to give Kaloyeros his come­up­pance on Tues­day.

So why doesn’t this feel sat­is­fy­ing? A long prison sen­tence for some­one at the cen­ter of a mas­sive rip-off ought to be cause for cel­e­bra­tion, right?

Or maybe I’m alone in this. You may be chortling about Dr. K’s al­most cer­tain fate, since it’s un­de­ni­able that, even as his rise from young as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor to univer­sity pres­i­dent turned him into one of our com­mu­nity’s most prom­i­nent cit­i­zens, his be­hav­ior made him an un­sym­pa­thetic fig­ure.

He’s the guy who used to be the top earner on the state pay­roll, pulling in about a mil­lion bucks a year, at least based on doc­u­ments we could see — though he bragged that we ac­tu­ally un­der-re­ported how much he made. Tax­pay­ers tend to re­sent peo­ple who grow rich with money taken from their own pock­ets.

And Kaloyeros seemed to enjoy flaunt­ing his wealth. He roared around in a flashy Fer­rari that had a sticker price start­ing at about $300,000 (li­cense plate: DRNANO) or a fully-out­fit­ted black Range Rover SUV (li­cense plate: NANOGEEK). He wore ex­pen­sive suits, ex­cept when he showed up at VIP events in jeans, as if to prove that he cruised above rules made for lesser folks. Peo­ple who fol­lowed him on Face­book of­ten con­cluded that he was ar­ro­gant and misog­y­nis­tic. And then there was the way he ma­neu­vered to win things for him­self: He seemed to have pushed out one Univer­sity at Al­bany pres­i­dent who stood in his path, and an­other pres­i­dent ar­rived in town to the sur­prise news that the univer­sity’s Col­lege of Nanoscale Sci­ence and En­gi­neer­ing would be split off to give Kaloyeros his own fief­dom, a new SUNY Polytech­nic In­sti­tute, with cam­puses across up­state. But the fact about Kaloyeros that you can’t es­makes cape — and what his im­pend­ing in­car­cer­a­tion seem down­right tragic — is that he made good things hap­pen in the Cap­i­tal Re­gion. Kaloyeros brought en­ergy and con­fi­dence to a com­mu­nity that has of­ten felt sorry for it­self as an un­der­achiever. His ini­tia­tive — yes, un­de­ni­ably his — turned a cor­ner of the Ual­bany cam­pus into a na­tional cen­ter for nanoscience, a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship with pay­rolls of many mil­lions of dol­lars. That, in turn, made the re­gion a vi­able con­tender for the Global Foundries chip fab­ri­ca­tion plant, with its 3,000 or so work­ers. Here’s a fair ques­tion: Ab­sent the seeds Kaloyeros planted, would the Cap­i­tal Re­gion’s tech­nol­ogy sec­tor ever have flow­ered?

One evening a few years ago, I ran into Todd Howe at Al­bany In­ter­na­tional Air­port, and the con­ver­sa­tion turned to Kaloyeros. Howe had worked for both Gov. An­drew Cuomo and his fa­ther, and was then, un­be­knownst to me, work­ing for Kaloyeros, en­gaged in some of the crim­i­nal be­hav­ior that will soon lead to his own lengthy im­pris­on­ment.

“The thing about Alain,” I re­mem­ber say­ing, “is that he has de­liv­ered on ev­ery­thing he promised. I used to think he was just a big talker. But what he said he would do, in fact, he did.”

Of course, what Dr. K was promis­ing to do about that time, with Howe’s help, was criminally de­liver hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in state con­tracts un­der Cuomo’s “Buf­falo Bil­lion” ini­tia­tive to cer­tain con­trac­tors. It’s un­clear why Kaloyeros did that, be­cause there’s no ev­i­dence that he per­son­ally prof­ited from the bid-rig­ging. Did he sim­ply want to show that he was pow­er­ful enough to ma­nip­u­late state con­tracts? Was a re­ward await­ing him that even pros­e­cu­tors with sub­poe­nas haven’t found?

It hardly mat­ters now. U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Va­lerie Caproni has al­ready said that Kaloyeros is more cul­pa­ble than his co-de­fen­dants, so we know he will spend many years in prison.

And why is that? Prison is as­sumed to be ei­ther re­tribu­tive or re­ha­bil­i­tory — that is, in­tended to pun­ish peo­ple for what laws de­fine as bad be­hav­ior or to re­form them from ever again ex­hibit­ing such be­hav­ior.

But Kaloyeros de­serves pun­ish­ment for a deeper rea­son. We can’t have a just so­ci­ety if all cit­i­zens aren’t held re­spon­si­ble for their con­duct. The as­sur­ance of jus­tice un­der the law, re­gard­less of any­one’s prior good deeds or sta­tion in life, ul­ti­mately guar­an­tees our shared free­dom.

So Dr. K will go to prison. We will miss his brash pres­ence, and our com­mu­nity will be fur­ther di­min­ished by the loss of his lead­er­ship. But a free so­ci­ety will be main­tain­ing the rule of law, which pro­tects all of its cit­i­zens, and that should be sat­is­fy­ing to us all.

Prison is in­tended to pun­ish peo­ple for bad be­hav­ior or to re­form them from ever again ex­hibit­ing such be­hav­ior. But is there ben­e­fit to lock­ing up a man whose work helped shape our com­mu­nity?

Photo il­lus­tra­tion by Jeff Boyer / Times Union

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