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Defense belittles bribe claim in trial of Cuomo's ex-aide

January 23, 2018 11:22 PM

NEW YORK – Joseph Percoco is no crook.

That was the argument from Percoco's attorney, Barry Bohrer, during opening statements inside a Manhattan federal court Tuesday.

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Once considered governor Cuomo's right hand man, Percoco faces federal charges alleging bid-rigging and bribery stemming from federal probes into state economic development projects.

“The Buffalo Billion, the economic development projects in Syracuse and the Mid -Hudson Valley. This particular case, the one that started today is really much more focused on Syracuse and the Mid-Hudson Valley than it is the Buffalo Billion, although they are all related. 

As Cuomo's campaign manager at the time, Percoco was allegedly getting campaign contributions from the projects.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone's accused Cuomo's former top aide of using his position to do favors for an energy company and real estate developer.

Percoco and his wife, who is not charged, are alleged to have accepted over 300-thousand dollars in kickbacks from the companies.

Blair Horner, Executive Director of the government watchdog group, New York Public Interest Research Group, said the case casts a dark cloud over the Cuomo administration. 

“Why was it such a secretive process,” Horner said. “Why could someone have such power to drive government contracts to favorite companies without someone watching? And so that will come back, that will be a problem for the governor.” 

However, Percoco's attorneys said their client was Cuomo's campaign worker at the time and not a state employee, which made all payments legitimate. 

The trial is just another example of corruption in government according to John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany, a government watchdog group. 

“If Joe Percoco gets off because of a technicality or because the jurors agree that this is bad but legal, it'll be devastating for New York State and for the confidence for the public in government,” Kaehny said. 

Percoco has pleaded not guilty. 

Cuomo has not been accused of wrongdoing and he has told reporters that he does not expect to be called to testify at Percoco's trial.
 

Credits

By LARRY NEUMEISTER

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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