Aides had to rearrange a central New York swing by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015 on the spot after right-hand man Joe Percoco issued a profanity-laced last minute order to visit the Syracuse developer now accused of bribing him, according to testimony at his corruption trial Tuesday.
State economic development official Andrew Kennedy, appearing in Manhattan federal court, said he only had 20 minutes to fit a side trip to a Cor Development hotel project into Cuomo’s Syracuse “Capitol for a Day” visit after an irate Percoco called during the governor’s first event.
“He was upset and direct,” recalled Kennedy. “He used R language.”
“Four letter words?” asked U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni.
“Yes,” said Kennedy. “I’m trying to keep it PG.”
Percoco, 48, of South Salem, is accused of taking bribes of nearly $300,000 from an energy company executive and $35,000 from two principals of Cor — Steve Aiello and Joseph Gerardi — in return for using his influence as Cuomo’s executive deputy secretary to help them.
Lobbyist Todd Howe, the conduit for the bribes who has become the star government witness, is expected to testify Thursday or Monday. This week, along with Kennedy’s testimony, prosecutors have introduced incriminating emails showing Percoco’s interest in matters involving Cor.
“This is another stupid blunder,” he stormed to aides in an email complaining about their failure to process a 10 percent raise for Aiello’s son, who worked for Cuomo. “WTF?” one of his aides emailed her colleagues, questioning Percoco’s pressure. But the raise was approved.
In another email, Aiello and Howe celebrated Percoco’s success in getting a midlevel official to back off the demand for a potentially costly labor agreement at the state-funded Syracuse hotel. “Totally Amazing,” Aiello wrote. “He underestimated the power of TH, JP!”
“Not me,” Howe responded. “JP.”
In his testimony, Kennedy said that at Percoco’s insistence he had to fit a visit to Cor’s project at the Syracuse Inner Harbor into a busy itinerary that included meetings with local officials and visits to a Budweiser plant and other sites, scrambling to divert press and staff to the added event.
“He was frustrated Mr. Aiello wasn’t included in the events,” Kennedy explained. “…He said ‘Get the governor to the project at the Inner Harbor.’”
Percoco says the $35,000 he received from Cor through Howe was received in 2014, when he was allowed to do private work after leaving state government to run Cuomo’s campaign before returning later that year.
But prosecutors have introduced evidence that Percoco’s offices in New York City and Albany were never occupied by anyone else, and that he continued to show up at them intermittently. An FBI agent said there were 837 calls from Percoco’s state office phone while he was on the campaign.
Testimony in the trial is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.