Joseph Percoco, a former top aide and confidant to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was convicted Tuesday of three felony charges in connection with accepting bribes.
Cuomo's political opponents seized on the verdict.
"The verdict demonstrated that these ideals have been violated by someone I knew for a long time". Percoco was accused of taking more than $300,000 in bribes in exchange for performing state government favors. Jurors who deliberated off and on for three weeks acquitted Percoco of two extortion counts and one of the bribery charges he had faced. In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zhou did not apologize for Howe. Percoco's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
"Percoco sold out his vast power, he sold out his influence and he betrayed the people of NY", a prosecutor, David Zhou, said in his closing arguments. The term was used in the HBO mob drama "The Sopranos".
Cuomo was not accused of wrongdoing, but the trial highlighted Albany as a place where deep-pocketed special interests use campaign donations to gain influence and flout rules meant to regulate lobbying. The governor and his campaign have refused to respond to reporters' questions emerging from the trial, including queries about Percoco's apparently open use of his Executive Chamber office during an eight-month period in 2014 when he had ostensibly resigned from his official post to run Cuomo's first re-election campaign.
Howe, who pleaded guilty to numerous crimes after cooperating with prosecutors, became a focus of the trial when he admitted violating his deal with prosecutors by improperly trying to recover the cost of a night at a luxury Manhattan hotel from a credit card company.
Within minutes of the verdict, good-government groups called on Cuomo and lawmakers to take action this year to strengthen oversight of government contracting and boost ethics enforcement. The people of NY deserve better.
None of the defendants testified.
Much of the government's narrative of the bribery schemes revolved around Todd R. Howe, a disgraced former lobbyist and longtime Albany insider, who prosecutors said engineered the bribes from the executives - Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., who worked for a Maryland-based power company, and Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, of a Syracuse-area development company - to Percoco. They say that included a $35,000 payment from Cor Development to secure the governor's help redeveloping a state-owned tract of land in Syracuse known as the Inner Harbor, and a $90,000-a-year "low-show" job for Percoco's wife from Kelly, a former executive at Competitive Power Ventures, to clear hurdles with the state to build power plants.