Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Former Aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Convicted on Corruption Charges

Former Aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Convicted on Corruption Charges

Joe Percoco was facing six counts of extortion, bribery and corruption.

Percoco, Cuomo's former closest aide who has been described as being like a "brother" to the governor, was found guilty of participating in two bribery schemes where he netted $300,000.

The verdict came during the trial's eighth week. Both times, the judge asked them to continue deliberating.

"As every schoolchild knows, but he corruptly chose to disregard, government officials who sell their influence to select insiders violate the basic tenets of a democracy", interim Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. "We will continue relentlessly to bring to justice those public officials who violate their oaths by engaging in this especially offensive misconduct".

Government watchdog groups also noted that evidence showed Percoco and other Cuomo staffers using private email to conduct public business, a lobbyist saying he was advised by an administration official that registering as a lobbyist would make it more hard to operate, and a contributor being coached on how to hide donations to Cuomo to avoid campaign limits.

Prosecutors say Percoco and his family accepted more than $300,000 in bribes.

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That included a $90,000-a-year job for his wife Lisa that involved minimal work. The defense team also portrayed the prosecution's star witness and disgraced former lobbyist Todd Howe as unreliable.

Howe, the alleged middleman in the scheme, admitted on the stand to a long history of fraud.

The trial painted an unflattering portrait of Percoco and more broadly of the inner workings of the state Capitol, one replete with expensive fishing trips, clubby nicknames and "magic phone calls" that could make or break multimillion-dollar contracts.

At the height of his influence, Mr. Percoco, whom Mr. Cuomo had once described as his father's "third son", was known as the governor's enforcer, responsible for everything from keeping lawmakers in line and intimidating Mr. Cuomo's political rivals to making sure chairs and thermostats were in order for the governor's public appearances. The trial exposed some questionable practices in his administration, including the intimidation of staffers who tried to leave state government, and the widespread use of private email for state business.

But beyond the sensational details, trial testimony portrayed an unsavory state government where big campaign contributors are eager to curry favor, willing to exploit campaign finance limit loopholes.

Percoco, 48, Cuomo's longtime confidante and the chairman of his 2014 re-election campaign, had pleaded not guilty. At one point, the key prosecution witness, a long-time lobbyist and supposed bribe-intermediary named Todd Howe, was arrested for credit card fraud, almost blowing up the whole case against Percoco.

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