NEW YORK (AP) — Prospective jurors were largely oblivious to an anti-corruption demonstration outside Manhattan federal court before the criminal trial began Monday for a longtime aide to New York's governor.

Defense lawyers for Joseph Percoco, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and three others expressed alarm that jurors were subjected to chants and protest signs as they entered court.

U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni said she would question each potential juror to see if they noticed anything unusual outside the courthouse, but she seemed to reject a defense suggestion that any demonstrators be kept farther from the courthouse.

Some prospective jurors noticed nothing. Others said they saw a demonstration or television cameras but didn't know what it was about. Many more said they could remain fair even after seeing the rally.

Most of the questions the judge posed to candidates for the jury pertained to their answers to a written questionnaire.

One man had criticized Donald Trump, saying the Republican president and a "number of his officials are corrupt, liars and can't be trusted."

"This trial is not going to be a referendum on the president of the United States," the judge said at one point.

Percoco and his co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of bid-rigging and bribery related to state economic development projects. Opening statements were expected to occur Tuesday.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not expected to testify.

The charges against Percoco were brought by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was fired by the Trump administration last year along with other federal prosecutors.

The trial will be the first major prosecution supervised by Bharara's interim replacement, Geoffrey Berman.


Associated Press writer David Klepper in Albany contributed to this report.

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