NEW YORK — A key witness in the corruption trial of a longtime aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is on the list of witnesses ready to be called to testify Thursday in a Manhattan federal courtroom.
Todd Howe, a former lobbyist with his own ties to Cuomo, was named with two other new witnesses who prosecutors said they could call Thursday against Joseph Percoco, one of four defendants in an alleged bribery case that rocked the Cuomo administration.
Howe’s testimony is expected to be a major factor in whether jurors convict Percoco on the alleged corruption charges.
The trial began last week.
Whether Howe makes it to the stand Thursday depends on whether Judge Valerie E. Caproni can successfully get lawyers – as she has during the trial – to hasten questioning of witnesses.
The trial has produced insights into Albany lobbying, angles allegedly used by Cuomo campaign contributors to try to affect state decision-making and an arrangement where Percoco was given access to his government offices in Manhattan and Albany – very near Cuomo’s own offices – after he left the public payroll in 2014 to work on Cuomo’s campaign.
Howe, who worked with Cuomo in government and campaign positions, has already had his credibility at issue.
Howe pleaded guilty to eight felony counts, several related directly to the Percoco case, and he has been cooperating with prosecutors for two years.
He admitted he steered alleged bribes to Percoco, who in turn allegedly used his position as Cuomo’s confidante to do government favors for a downstate energy firm and Syracuse real estate company.
In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone told jurors that Howe lied to his employer – an Albany law and lobbying firm – as well as the IRS. “We’re not asking you to like Todd Howe,’’ he said.
Defense lawyers spent nearly two weeks raising questions about Howe’s activities. In his opening statement, Percoco's lawyer Barry Bohrer called him a “pathological liar.’’
Howe’s attorney, Richard Morvillo, has watched some of the court proceedings. Earlier this week defense lawyers tried to get him removed from the courtroom. In a brief appearance before the judge, who let him remain in court, Morvillo said Howe has “had a history of not always telling the truth.’’
Morvillo, Howe's former brother-in-law, said Howe knows he has to tell the truth in the Percoco trial because of the cooperation agreement he signed with lawyers.
Jurors Wednesday heard final testimony from Kathleen Garver, a special agent from the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office who investigated the two Syracuse developers, Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi. Besides the alleged bribery scheme, they are accused of allegedly lying to the FBI.
Jurors spent most of the day hearing from Steve Remillard, a power plant consultant and former executive with Competitive Power Ventures, or CPV. Peter Galbraith Kelly, a former executive with the firm, is accused of bribing Percoco by arranging a “low-show” job for Percoco’s wife with the firm.
Remillard testified that Howe was in a meeting at the outset of Cuomo’s first run for governor in 2010 that introduced CPV insiders to Michael Del Giudice, who like Percoco and Howe have Cuomo connections dating back to the days of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration. Del Giudice, the witness acknowledged, was billed as Andrew Cuomo’s campaign “energy guy” and CPV executives were trying an early to push the firm’s business opportunities with insiders on Cuomo’s team.
On Thursday, another CPV executive is due to testify, as well as a state environmental conservation agency official. If Howe does testify, it’s expected to be late in the afternoon – giving audiences a brief glimpse of Howe in advance of long hours on the witness stand next week again for Howe. Putting him on late in the day, even for a short period of time, might give Howe a chance to leave an impression of himself with jurors during what will be far more friendly questioning from prosecutors than what he can expect next week from the four defense teams.
On Thursday, if Howe does testify, it’s expected to be late in the afternoon – giving observers a brief glimpse of Howe in advance of what is expected to be long hours on the witness stand next week again for Howe.
Mylan Denerstein, a former counsel to Cuomo, did not, as expected, testify Thursday. Prosecutors said she may be called later in the trial.