Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, was found guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and solicitation of bribes, a rebuke of Albany's murky backroom dealings that were laid bare during the almost eight-week trial.
Percoco, once described by the governor as his late father Mario's third son, was convicted for solicitation of bribes and two other counts. Aiello was found guilty on Tuesday of one count of conspiracy, while Gerardi was acquitted of all charges, Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, said.
"Gov. Cuomo's close aide Joseph Percoco was found guilty by a jury of his peers for accepting $300,000 in bribes from companies who had business before the state".
Prosecutors said he sold that influence to two private companies for more than $300,000 worth of bribes.
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. Fellow upstate businessman Joseph Gerardi was cleared of three counts, and a mistrial was declared for energy executive Peter Galbraith Kelly. The government also alleged he accepted $35,000 in cash. In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zhou did not apologize for Howe.
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There was testimony about administration officials using private email addresses to conduct state business in secret, and about how Percoco continued to work out of a state office even after he was supposed to have left government to lead Cuomo's 2014 re-election campaign. A message left with his spokesman following the verdict was not immediately returned. 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.
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.
Howe recounted that he and Percoco, lifting a reference from the mob drama "The Sopranos", used the word "ziti" to refer to bribe money.
His reliability was further wounded when his bail was revoked and he was jailed in the middle of his testimony, after appearing to admit on the witness stand to a previously unknown effort to defraud his credit card company.
Percoco was one of four defendants in the case and only of them was convicted, Steven Aiello. Neither Percoco nor any of his co-defendants testified on their own behalf. In return, Howe said, Percoco pressured the executives to help his wife land a low-show job with the power company or to funnel thousands of dollars a month in covert payments.