2nd Circuit affirms conviction of former top Cuomo aide

NEW YORK – The conviction of one of the former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of fraud and accepting bribes was confirmed by a federal appeals court on Wednesday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the case against Joseph Percoco required it to review the scope of federal fraud and bribery laws.

Percoco, 52, is a longtime friend and top aide of Cuomo, a Democrat who recently resigned as governor over alleged sexual harassment.

The appeals court also upheld the conviction of Steven Aiello, 63, a Syracuse real estate executive who was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in giving bribes to Percoco to gain influence in a project The ambitious Buffalo Billion development project aims to encourage upward economic development.

Percoco, found guilty of receiving more than $300,000 from companies seeking to influence the Cuomo government, was sentenced to six years in prison. He is scheduled to be released in April 2024.

The scandal has been a years-long dark cloud over the Cuomo administration and is frequently cited by critics as evidence that Cuomo has failed to tackle chronic corruption in the administration. state, even within its own government.

In a decision written by Second Circuit Judge Richard J. Sullivan, a three-judge appeals panel rejected arguments that a jury at the 2018 trial was improperly guided by a judge of the law, who incorrectly concludes that there is sufficient evidence to convict.

The 2nd Circuit said it had successfully proven Percoco took bribes and promised to take formal action to advance the interests of an energy company, Competitive Power Venture. And it said prosecutors demonstrated that Percoco, in a second scheme, agreed with Aiello to advance the interests of Aiello’s real estate development company, COR Development Co.

The Court of Appeals agreed with attorneys for Percoco and Aiello that the judge’s bribery instructions to the jury were inconsistent with legal standards recently clarified in a corruption case in New York state. other, but they say the fault is harmless and the jury will convict anyway. .

Prosecutors declined to comment for a spokesman. Messages seeking comment have been sent to attorneys for Percoco and Aiello, who have yet to report to jail.

The overwhelming trial evidence showed that Percoco and his accomplices understood that payments to Percoco’s wife for an underperforming job as an “educational consultant” were in exchange for his help in giving energy company CPV an agreement that requires the state of New York to buy electricity from the company, Circuit 2 said.

In an amusing moment at the trial, payments were described in encrypted communications between accomplices in 2012 as “ziti,” a reference to how characters from the award-winning series HBO’s “The Sopranos” describes.

The plan to develop COR was developed while Percoco was temporarily managing Cuomo’s re-election campaign in 2014. The 2nd Circuit said evidence suggests Aiello arranged for his company to pay Percoco to take actions that benefit the company.

Before leading Cuomo’s re-election campaign, Percoco was the governor’s deputy executive secretary, a position that gave him power over Cuomo’s budget, personnel and operations decisions, and played a role. important role in overseeing labor relations, government affairs and legislative matters, the appeals court noted.

“Percoco’s power is amplified by his unique relationship with Governor Cuomo; He has worked with Governor Cuomo in a number of roles, and is known for being close to him and his family,” said Circuit 2.


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