Cuomo's ex-aide, guilty of 3 felonies in bribery case

Joseph Percoco leaves court

Joseph Percoco leaves court

The jury in the federal corruption trial of Joseph Percoco, a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, found him guilty on three counts of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and solicitation of bribes and gratuities. He was acquitted on two extortion counts and one soliciting bribes count.

Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, top executives at Syracuse-based Cor Development, were also accused of paying Percoco $35,000 through his wife for help with their redevelopment of Syracuse's Inner Harbor and obtaining a raise for Aiello's son, who worked for Cuomo. A second executive with the company, Joseph Gerardi, was acquitted on all counts. The jury said it was deadlocked on charges against Kelly. In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zhou did not apologize for Howe.

The trial put a harsh spotlight on the attempts of several private companies to gain influence with the Cuomo administration.

The jury had difficulty coming to an agreement on all ten charges against Percoco, perhaps the highest profile defendant in the federal indictments of New York State officials and contractors doing business with the state. They said Kelly, a former executive at Competitive Power Ventures, hoped to clear hurdles with the state for power plants by paying Percoco's wife $290,000 in salary for a job that required little work. But defense lawyers argued there was no evidence to show any bribes were made or that Percoco did anything unusual to help the businessmen.

"I am disappointed, but as Barry says, we are going to consider our options and move forward", he said.

"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.

Kelly was charged with providing Percoco's wife, Lisa Toscano Percoco, with a $90,000-per-year job with a CPV educational program - a salary that, according to trial testimony, she performed little work for, and that was paid through an obscure Connecticut-based firm in order to hide her employment from public view.

Prosecutors countered by citing emails in which Percoco and cooperating witness Todd Howe referred to money using the word "ziti", a term borrowed from the HBO mob drama "The Sopranos".

Cuomo, a Democrat, has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The trial was the latest in a long line of corruption allegations to emerge from Albany in recent years.

Howe's credibility was the centerpiece of the case, as defense lawyers challenged the credibility of a witness who admitted that he had been a chronic deadbeat for much of his life who cheated countless creditors, embezzled almost $1 million from his law firm, and had also been convicted of bank theft for kiting a check.

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.

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