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Prosecution rests in ex-Cuomo aide’s bribery trial

A flourish of evidence designed to show Joseph Percoco’s power in the governor’s chamber wraps up the prosecution’s case.

Joseph Percoco exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan

Joseph Percoco exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Percoco, a former top aide to New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, is charged with using his clout in return for more than $320,000 in payoffs from a power company executive and two Syracuse developers. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Prosecutors rested their case in the bribery trial of ex-gubernatorial aide Joseph Percoco on Thursday with a flourish of evidence designed to show the power Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s former right-hand man exercised in the executive chamber.

One witness, Andrew Ball, a confidential assistant to the governor, was described in earlier testimony as a staffer who became a target of complaints after clashing with another Cuomo staffer, the son of Syracuse developer Steve Aiello, a Cuomo donor who allegedly bribed Percoco.

Without warning or explanation, Ball said, he was moved from a spot on the 39th floor of Cuomo’s New York City offices, where the governor and Percoco were located, to a location with less “prestige” on the 37th floor.

Despite seeing Percoco as both a “mentor” and a “brother,” Ball said, his complaints got nowhere. “I expressed my anger and frustration with the decision,” he testified. “Joe expressed that it was his decision and it was final.”

Percoco, 48, of South Salem, is charged with taking more than $300,000 in bribes from energy company official Peter Galbraith Kelly, and from Aiello and his partner, Joseph Gerardi, in return for using his clout on behalf of their projects.

The bribes were allegedly set up by former lobbyist Todd Howe, a government witness. Earlier in the trial, he testified that Percoco intervened to punish Ball after Aiello complained that Ball was “busting the chops” of his son.

Prosecutors also introduced a new set of emails to highlight Percoco’s continued power in 2014, after he had resigned from the government to run Cuomo’s campaign but continued to show up at his old office in the governor’s sanctum and use his phone.

In the emails, Percoco grappled with personnel problems inside the administration involving the possible departure of several administration aides. In one exchange involving an Office of General Services official, state operations director Howard Glaser said the man had been treated badly.

Percoco answered sharply that he hadn’t, and ordered a planning session on how to keep the man. Glaser, who was actually in government, deferred to Percoco, writing, “You are the maestro.”

After the government rested, lawyers for all four defendants asked U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni to drop the charges for lack of evidence, a standard motion, complaining that neither of the alleged bribe schemes involved a clear enough quid pro quo to pass muster.

Caproni said she had doubts about some of the government’s extortion counts, but took the motions under advisement. After predicting Wednesday that testimony would last into the second week of March, she said defense decisions to cut many witnesses meant it will likely end next week.

The defense case is scheduled to resume on Friday.

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