Here’s the long-term value in the conviction of a top former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: It sends a loud message to a hard-of-hearing government that the old ways don’t cut it anymore.
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver learned that lesson the hard way. So did former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Now a once-powerful behind-the-scenes player, Joseph Percoco, has gotten his comeuppance. Maybe this time the message will get through.
Then, again, this is New York.
After what appeared to be agonizing jury deliberations, Percoco was convicted on Tuesday of was convicted of three felonies related to a bribery scheme in which corporate interests got special state attention in return for a money paid into Percoco’s personal bank account. The trial lasted nearly eight weeks and included eight days of jury deliberation during which members twice reported they were deadlocked.
Tuesday morning, they agreed: Percoco did what federal prosecutors were claiming in three of six charges. He was acquitted of the other three. With his conviction, the 48-year-old faces a prison term of up to 50 years. Sentencing is scheduled for June 11. Does he still think it was worth it?
You would hope not. Both Silver and Skelos at least appeared to be well chastened after their convictions and, even though the verdicts were overturned, new trials await and New Yorkers who followed the cases know what they did. These men destroyed their own reputations.
How Percoco will proceed remains to be seen, but an appeal would be typical. More uncertain is how the conviction of a once-close aide will affect Cuomo in this re-election year. He was not accused of any wrongdoing in that case, but Republicans are already tarring him with it. That’s politics, and it will be interesting to see how Cuomo responds as the year progresses.
And it’s not over yet. The just concluded case involved a construction project in Syracuse and a downstate energy company. In June, trials are scheduled to begin on corruption allegations in the South Buffalo RiverBend project. Again, Cuomo is not accused of any wrongdoing.
But the lessons for elected officials and political operatives should be plain. It’s time in New York to try out a new policy. It’s called honesty.