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Jailed Percoco trial star witness Todd Howe released

Star federal witness Todd Howe, the former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo whose dodgy testimony at an Albany corruption trial in February got him jailed, was ordered released Thursday with strict conditions on his access to credit cards and a stern warning at a Manhattan federal court hearing.

“Mr. Howe, you’re getting a second chance,” U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni told the ex-lobbyist. “ . . . I might say this is more like your third or fourth chance, but seriously, everyone’s patience has gone. This is your chance. Don’t mess it up. You now know what jail is like.”

Howe is expected to return to Idaho, where his lawyer said he had been offered his old job as a golf course groundskeeper while awaiting sentencing for bribing ex-Cuomo deputy Joseph Percoco, bid-rigging on upstate development projects, and embezzling from his law firm. Caproni hasn’t said if he would get prison time.

Shuffling out of the courtroom shackled and still in the custody of two marshals to sign release papers and collect his belongings, Howe didn’t comment, but flashed a grin when a reporter said, “Todd, smile if you’re happy.”

Howe, 58, became a key government witness after telling prosecutors he set up bribes to Percoco on behalf of lobbying clients, and also arranged to rig bids on behalf of two clients for upstate development deals with SUNY official Alain Kaloyeros, who was also a client of Howe's firm.

But during cross examination at Percoco’s trial he admitted to a lifetime of fraudulent financial behavior and stiffing creditors despite his six-figure income. He was jailed after admitting he lied to dodge a hotel bill after he agreed to cooperate with the government and go straight.

Among other conditions of release, he is barred from holding more than one credit card, must file credit reports with the judge, must leave all of his family finances to his wife, and can’t spend more than $1000 on anything other than medical and health needs without court permission.

“Do not take out another credit card,” Caproni warned him. “I think any credit company that would give you another credit card should be investigated, but that’s another question.”

The judge has tentatively scheduled Nov. 2 for Howe’s sentencing date, but told him that all the detailed rules governing his behavior were less important than one big message.

“The primary rule Mr. Howe must keep in mind,” she said, “is that he can’t commit another crime . . . If he can't keep that in mind, none of the rest of these conditions are going to make a dime's worth of difference.”

Howe was finally released around 4 p.m. In addition to other conditions, he and his wife have to sign a $100,000 bail bond. Percoco and Kaloyeros were both convicted and are awaiting sentencing. Cuomo has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

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