Percoco, a South Salem resident, was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of solicitation of bribes or gratuities and acquitted of two extortion charges related to his acceptance of $300,000 in bribes to benefit Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company that sought to build the power plant in the Hudson Valley. He was cleared of any wrongdoing related to the Syracuse-based COR Development, which had received several sizable state projects.
The bribes were arranged by Todd Howe, another former aide, infamous lobbyist, and close friend of Cuomo, according to court papers. Howe was grilled by the defense team for several days of the trial during cross-examination, leading to his arrest after he violated the terms of an agreement of his plea bargain.
During cross-examination, Howe admitting to attempting to defraud a Manhattan hotel of $600, violating his plea, leading to the revocation of his bail on late in the trial, which began on Jan. 22. Howe admitted in court that in 2016, while in Manhattan to meet with prosecutors, he attempted to get his bank to remove the charge from his bill.
On the stand during the trial, Howe said that Percoco called the money he received in the “pay-to-play” scheme “ziti,” stating it was a reference to “The Sopranos,” according to a New York Post report. According to the report, before Howe took the stand, prosecutors unsuccessfully lobbied to play a clip from the popular HBO show before he testified.
The defense team repeatedly attacked Howe's credibility during cross-examination, showcasing how the lobbyist embezzled money, lost a near million dollar home for failure to make mortgage payments and has led schemes to defraud friends, co-workers, employees and family members over the past two decades.
In a prepared statement, interim Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said, “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 New York.
“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,” Berman added.
The jury nearly forced a mistrial after reaching a breaking point following nearly two weeks of deliberations. Several asked out and reported they were deadlocked as recently as Monday morning, but they ultimately reached a consensus regarding Percoco.
Percoco is scheduled to be sentenced on June 11, when he faces up to 50 years in prison.
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