Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s former right-hand man, Joe Percoco, has asked for a prison sentence of 2 years, rather than the 5-years-plus sought by prosecutors.
Percoco’s lawyers, in a sentencing memorandum filed late Wednesday, included letters of support from his wife, former Cuomo secretaries Larry Schwartz and Steven Cohen, and former Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin — but nothing from Cuomo himself, who had once said the aide was like a brother.
Following his March conviction of bribery schemes involving a Syracuse developer and an energy company, Percoco has already suffered plenty — publicly disgraced and facing bankruptcy — and has become a liability for Cuomo, who seeks re-election, defense lawyers told Manhattan U.S. District Judge Valerie Capron.
“He has spent the overwhelming majority of his professional career supporting and advocating on behalf of the Cuomo family and enhancing its reputation,” lawyer Barry Bohrer wrote. “That his name, his picture, and this case will be used in an attempt to sully that reputation is itself stiff punishment.”
Percoco, 49, was convicted of using his clout in Cuomo’s inner circle to benefit Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company that paid his wife $287,000 for a “low show” job, and COR Development, which paid him $35,000 as a consultant.
His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 10. Earlier Wednesday, the government had urged Caproni to impose a sentence that would “meaningfully exceed” 5 years in prison, to send a “strong message” about rampant political corruption in New York.
Percoco was known in state government as Cuomo’s hard-nosed political enforcer, but friends and family described him in more than 70 letters as a decent, hardworking family man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps from a blue-collar background.
His wife, Lisa, said his family “really needs him.” Cohen said he was “angry and . . . aggrieved” about the facts proven at trial, but said Percoco had been a “selfless” aide who on balance had served the public “honorably” in his career. Schwartz said the crime “does not represent who Joe is.”
Defense lawyers also told Caproni the conviction was a “close case.” They conceded that Percoco “made mistakes,” but said he didn’t start out seeking a job for his wife from CPV, got fees from COR while he had taken a leave to run Cuomo’s campaign, and didn’t actually play a significant role in helping either company.
Those claims reflected the defense arguments at trial. “What Joe actually did,” Bohrer wrote, “was, respectfully, very little.”
Prosecutors say that nonbinding federal guidelines recommend a sentence of more than 188 months, while the defense calculates a low end of 121 months. Both sides agreed the sentence should be far lower than the federal guidelines in light of prison terms in other corruption cases.