Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo now facing federal corruption charges, “threatened at least four” state employees “who were considering leaving their current jobs or [state] service entirely, by claiming that [he] would use his extensive influence…to prevent them from finding future employment,” prosecutors claim in an October letter filed in court on Wednesday.
“On at least three occasions, between 2011 and 2016, while employed as the Executive Deputy Secretary to the Governor, and on at least two occasions during his employment by the Cuomo Campaign,” prosecutors say, Percoco threatened the director of state operations, a spokesperson for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, a deputy commissioner at the Office of General Services, and “an Executive Chamber employee who sought to work” at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. The four employees are not identified by name.
The newly revealed allegations, which do not appear in the complaint or any version of the indictment, were brought to light by Percoco’s legal team, which is seeking to exclude them at trial.
“These assertions are baseless, and their vagueness suggests that they do not arise from interviews of the relevant employees, but rather the opportunistic imagination of Todd Howe, a government cooperator who has demonstrated a penchant for prevarication,” Barry Bohrer, Percoco’s lawyer, wrote to the court on Nov. 1. The alleged misconduct described in the government’s letter, which also claims Percoco flouted guidance from executive chamber counsel concerning outside employment, “is of minimal probative value at best and yet poses a serious risk of unfair prejudice and undue delay at trial,” Bohrer wrote.
Percoco, who left state government in Jan. 2016, is alleged to have taken bribes from an energy company and real-estate developer in exchange for state actions benefitting them. The trial, in which three executives from those two companies are also defendants, is scheduled for this January. All have pleaded not guilty.
“Unrelated ‘threats’ could be used to improperly suggest that Percoco is a bully who regularly throws his weight around,” Bohrer went on. Their inclusion could “insinuate that if [Percoco] bullied some State officials on employment matters he must also have bullied other State officials into taking the alleged official acts,” which include securing a raise for one developer’s son and working toward a power-purchase agreement between the energy company and the state.
Attorneys for the energy company executive, Peter Galbraith Kelly, Jr., joined Bohrer’s request to exclude the alleged threats, highlighting the vagueness of prosecutors’ description:
While the Government’s letter to Mr. Percoco listed the titles of people who received the threats, it has provided no other details. As a result, it is impossible to know when each “threat” occurred or which one of the four recipients received a threat twice. Indeed, for at least one of the listed titles, more than one person has held that title during the specified time period, so it is impossible to know who was allegedly threatened. Nor is it possible to know who Mr. Percoco allegedly threatened while he worked for the Governor or while he worked for the campaign, how Mr. Percoco made the “threats,” what the “threats” were, where the “threats” occurred, what precipitated the “threats,” or how the recipients responded to or understood the “threats.”
Attorneys for the real-estate executives, Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, also joined in the objections.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent after midnight.