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

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

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. Percoco's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. A second executive with the company, Joseph Gerardi, was acquitted on all counts. 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.

When the verdict was returned, jurors convicted Percoco on two honest-services-fraud charges and one solicitation-of-bribes-and-gratuity charge. In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zhou did not apologize for Howe.

The U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, said in a statement that Percoco had sold "his sacred obligation to honestly and faithfully serve the citizens of NY". The Syracuse men allegedly paid $35,000 for Percoco to help cut red tape on state-funded projects, and push a raise for Aiello's son, who worked for Cuomo.

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.

"Albany stays on trial", said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, who called the verdict "a wake-up call to Albany to do something to clean up its ethics act". In addition to alleging corrupt dealings with Percoco as he sat just steps away from Cuomo's office, Howe described how he enjoyed cozy, favored access to several officials as a lobbyist and painted an unflattering picture of Cuomo losing his temper at one meeting to curry favor with a donor. 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.

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Howe, who pleaded guilty to numerous crimes after cooperating with prosecutors, became a focus of the trial when he admitted violating his deal with prosecutors by improperly trying to recover the cost of a night at a luxury Manhattan hotel from a credit card company.

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".

None of the defendants testified. Lawyers for Aiello, Gerardi and Kelly could not immediately be reached.

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.