A former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo was convicted on federal bribery and fraud charges Tuesday in a trial that further exposed the state capital's culture of backroom deal-making.
Jurors in U.S. District Court in Manhattan found Percoco not guilty of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. The jury found him not guilty on three other charges.
They were ordered back to work by the judge overseeing the trial both times.
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. 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.
Prosecutors argued he accepted more than $300,000 in bribes, most in the form of a job for his wife.
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One guilty verdict involved a scheme in which an energy company with state regulatory decisions ahead of it arranged for a "low-show" job for Percoco's wife.
Aiello and Girardi had been charged with playing Percoco $35,000 funneled through Todd Howe, the disgraced consultant who served as the prosecution's star witness. And he was arrested mid-trial when he appeared to admit having violated his cooperation agreement with the government.
Using Howe's testimony and an extensive record of emails, prosecutors showed Percoco's increasingly urgent pleas to Howe - another longtime confidant of the Cuomos - for "ziti", a term for cash payments that Percoco borrowed from HBO's mafia drama "The Sopranos". 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.
Cuomo, a Democrat, has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Instead, the trial served as a gallery of bad behavior, from the use of limited liability companies to hide the true identities of political donors to administration officials' extensive use of private emails accounts to conduct public business in an apparent effort to avoid transparency.
There was testimony about how administration officials used 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. Jurors who deliberated off and on for three weeks acquitted Percoco of two extortion counts and one of the bribery charges he had faced.