The government’s star witness in the bribery trial of a former top aide to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was bracing for a scolding from prosecutors as he left the witness stand Thursday after admitting that his proclivity to tell lies did not end when he promised not to commit any more crimes.
Todd Howe was forced to concede that he tried to improperly recover the cost of a fancy Manhattan hotel room from a credit card company after signing an agreement not to commit any more crimes.
Howe, the government’s prime witness in the trial of his longtime friend, Joseph Percoco, has been testifying all week after pleading guilty to crimes including bribery and corruption. Prosecutors say Percoco, a longtime Cuomo confidante who ran his 2014 re-election campaign, was paid over $300,000 in bribes from 2012 to 2016 to help three businessmen in their dealings with the state.
Percoco has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers say his legal acts are being falsely portrayed by Howe as crimes. They say Howe is telling lies in a desperate bid to avoid prison for crimes that carry a potential sentence of up to 130 years.
Defense attorney Daniel Gitner, representing one of Percoco’s three co-defendants, questioned Howe about a night he spent at the Waldorf Astoria, a luxury Manhattan hotel, in 2016 as he was working out a plea agreement with the government.
Gitner confronted Howe with the fact that he called a credit card company to dispute his $604 charge for a night at the hotel.
The lawyer asked Howe if he realized he was in violation of his plea agreement.
“I sure hope not,” he said.
Then the lawyer asked whether he thought prosecutors would rip up the agreement or merely give him a stern lecture as they did when he diverted tens of thousands of dollars that he was supposed to put in escrow to pay debts of his choosing and other expenses.
“I’m not sure,” Howe answered.
The revelation at the end of the court day came after Gitner earlier had exposed the fact that Howe had failed to tell prosecutors that he lied on a disability application by failing to reveal that he had been convicted of a felony in 2010 for cheating a bank.
Cooperators are required to tell prosecutors about all of their crimes and wrongdoing before they begin working with the government.