NEW YORK — 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 nearly eight-week trial.
Federal prosecutors had accused Percoco, the governor’s former executive deputy secretary and a longtime confidant, of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from three executives from two companies with state business.
Jurors in U.S. District Court in Manhattan found Percoco not guilty of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. And it could not reach a verdict on two counts against one of Percoco’s co-defendants, an executive accused of bribing him in exchange for official actions.
At the height of his influence, Percoco, whom Cuomo had once described as his father’s “third son,” was known as the governor’s enforcer, responsible for everything from keeping lawmakers in line and intimidating Cuomo’s political rivals to making sure chairs and thermostats were in order for the governor’spublic appearances.
The trial painted an unflattering portrait of Percoco and more broadly of the inner workings of the state Capitol, one replete with expensive fishing trips, clubby nicknames and “magic phone calls” that could make or break multimillion-dollar contracts.
“Percoco sold out his vast power, he sold out his influence and he betrayed the people of New York,” a prosecutor, David Zhou, said in his closing arguments.
Much of the government’s narrative of the bribery schemes revolved around Todd R. Howe, a disgraced former lobbyist and longtime Albany insider, who prosecutors said engineered the bribes from the executives — Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., who worked for a Maryland-based power company, and Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, of a Syracuse-area development company — to Percoco.
Howe, who had pleaded guilty to eight felonies and was cooperating with prosecutors, described how Percoco helped the Syracuse company evade a costly union requirement on a development and wrangled a pay raise for Aiello’s son, who worked in state government. 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.