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Lawyer: Ex-aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo possible defense witness

Todd Howe exits federal court after testifying in

Todd Howe exits federal court after testifying in the Joseph Percoco corruption trial on Feb. 5 in New York. Credit: Louis Lanzano

Ex-lobbyist and Gov. Andrew Cuomo aide Todd Howe, the cooperating witness who prosecutors decided not to call to testify at the upstate bid-rigging trial of former SUNY official Alain Kaloyeros, may appear anyway — as a defense witness.

With prosecutors planning to rest their case on Wednesday, a lawyer for Kaloyeros told Manhattan U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni that they need to discredit Howe because other witnesses’ testimony about his emails and statements form the backbone of the government’s case.

Putting him on the stand may be the only way to do it, defense lawyer Reid Weingarten told the judge.

“One will see,” Weingarten told reporters afterward.

Kaloyeros, 62, of upstate Slingerlands, is accused of conspiring to steer nearly $1 billion in bids on upstate development deals he managed for Cuomo to co-defendants Louis P. Ciminelli, a Buffalo builder, and Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi of Syracuse’s COR Development.

Howe, a lobbyist with deep connections inside the Cuomo administration, was working as a consultant simultaneously for Kaloyeros, Ciminelli and COR, and has pleaded guilty to conspiring to tailor the bids for Ciminelli and COR.

Former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco was convicted in March of bribery based on Howe’s testimony, but doubts about his credibility led to him being jailed and sidelined for Kaloyeros’ trial. Instead, prosecutors used his emails and had another cooperator, former Ciminelli aide Kevin Schuler, recount incriminating statements from Howe.

Weingarten said the defense wants jurors to know about Howe’s prior crimes — including the Percoco case, embezzlement from his law firm, and a bank fraud — and would also like to read damaging testimony from the Percoco trial, but may only be allowed to do that if Howe invokes his right against self-incrimination.

Otherwise, Howe may have to be called as a live witness.

“Everything Schuler testified to that was incriminating depended entirely on Todd Howe,” Weingarten said. “The law allows me to impeach a co-conspirator in a variety of ways.”

The government contends Howe used his links to Cuomo to get Kaloyeros in the governor’s good graces and Kaloyeros in turn steered contracts to Howe’s clients. Prosecutors also say Ciminelli and COR were favored because they were big donors to Cuomo, but haven’t introduced evidence to back that up at trial.

In testimony on Tuesday, two contractors backed up the government’s case that the Buffalo preferred-developer selection was geared to Ciminelli, telling jurors the bid requirements were unusual — demanding long history and headquarters in Buffalo and giving no specificity about the projects the state was planning.

“We just felt there was another firm that was better positioned and would probably get selected,” said Stephen Bills of LeChase Construction in Rochester. “ . . . The geographic requirements were different from what we were used to.”

The trial resumes on Wednesday.

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