Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan, where the jury has reached a verdict in the case of Joe Percoco. "Joseph Percoco was found guilty of taking over $300,000 in cash bribes by selling something priceless that was not his to sell, the sacred obligation to honestly and faithfully serve the citizens of NY", U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
Percoco has been found guilty of two counts of conspiracy and guilty on one count of solicitation of a bribe. Prosecutors made much of Percoco's use of the word "ziti" in emails to claim he knew he was accepting bribes. He had been on trial for five weeks along with two developers, Steve Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, and an energy company executive, Peter Galbraith Kelly.
The almost six-week trial took an unexpected turn in early February when the prosecutors' star witness, former Cuomo aide Todd Howe, was arrested after admitting on the witness stand that he had violated his cooperation agreement. The U.S. Attorney's office didn't immediately announce whether it would seek a retrial. The term was used in the HBO mob drama "The Sopranos". Another, interestingly enough, was about a bribe he allegedly secured while on a leave of absence to run Cuomo's 2014 reelection campaign. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and former state Senate leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, were both convicted of taking bribes in 2015, but their convictions were overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
Good-government groups called on Cuomo and lawmakers to take action now to strengthen oversight of government contracting and boost ethics enforcement.
"Albany stays on trial", said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
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. Howe, who pleaded guilty to numerous crimes after cooperating with prosecutors, was arrested again during the trial when he admitted violating his deal with prosecutors by trying to avoid paying a luxury hotel bill.
It led the government to have his bail revoked midway through his seven days on the witness stand. Neither Percoco nor any of his co-defendants testified on their own behalf.
Prosecutors have said that Kelly bribed Percoco by giving his wife, Lisa Percoco, a mostly no-show job that paid $90,000 a year for three years in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to win favorable treatment from state officials for two power plant projects.
Aiello, a top executive at Cor Development, was convicted of one felony count after paying Percoco $35,000 in exchange for favors including his help redeveloping Syracuse's Inner Harbor and obtaining a raise for Aiello's son, who worked for Cuomo.
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