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Energy executive pleads guilty in Percoco corruption case

Joseph Percoco, right, exits a federal courthouse in

Joseph Percoco, right, exits a federal courthouse in Manhattan after being found guilty on corruption charges on March 13, 2018. Percoco was convicted on three counts and acquitted of three counts. He faces up to 50 years in prison and will be sentenced on June 11. Credit: Charles Eckert

The energy executive accused of hiring the wife of former top Andrew M. Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco to a “low show” job to bribe her husband pleaded guilty Friday in Manhattan federal court, but not to bribery.

Peter Galbraith “Braith” Kelly, whose guilt jurors were unable to agree on when they convicted Percoco of bribery in March, avoided a retrial by pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for lying to his company about the hiring.

Kelly, 54, of Canterbury, Connecticut, choked up as he admitted to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni that he lied to his bosses at Competitive Power Ventures by telling them that there was a New York government ethics opinion approving the hiring of Lisa Percoco.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Kelly said. “My decisions were the greatest mistakes of my life. I will forever regret them and the horrible impact they had on my family, CPV and others. I am truly ashamed of the judgment that I exercised.”

Prosecutors accused Percoco, 48, of South Salem, of taking $300,000 in bribes set up by lobbyist Todd Howe, a government cooperating witness, to wield influence in the executive chamber.

The payoffs included $35,000 from two Syracuse developers to help cut red tape on state-funded projects, and $90,000-a-year energy-education job Kelly arranged for Lisa Percoco to get her husband’s help on a Hudson Valley power plant and a pollution-credit pact with New Jersey.

Kelly’s defense lawyer claimed at trial that the job for Lisa Percoco, a teacher, was part of legitimate program to build community relations by offering an energy curriculum in elementary schools. Prosecutors contended she was vastly overpaid for little work.

At Friday’s plea, Kelly said that he originally believed there was an ethics opinion approving the arrangement, but when he learned there wasn’t Howe talked him into lying to his company. “I believed the company would not approve of hiring Lisa without an ethics opinion,” he said.

Kelly faces a maximum of 5 years in prison, with a recommended sentence of 12 to 18 months under federal sentencing guidelines.

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