Prosecutors in the upcoming Albany corruption trial of former top Cuomo administration aide Joe Percoco want to present evidence that he threatened to use his “extensive influence” to retaliate against four state workers considering leaving their jobs.
According to an Oct. 13 letter revealed this week by defense lawyers, the government contends Percoco made the retaliatory threats three times while he was serving as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s top lieutenant, and two other times while working in Cuomo’s campaign.
When the four officials were considering shifting to other state jobs or leaving state service, prosecutors said, Percoco threatened that he “would use his extensive influence in New York State to prevent them from finding future employment.”
The letter didn’t name the targets, but identified their titles — a state director of operations, a deputy commissioner for public affairs at the Division of Homeland Security, a deputy commissioner at the Office of General Services, and a worker in Cuomo’s executive chamber who wanted to move to the state university system.
The new allegation highlighted Percoco’s reputation among Albany legislators and insiders as a top adviser who was able to exercise political muscle and serve as an enforcer for Cuomo because of his long-standing loyalty to both the governor and his father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo.
The government has charged Percoco, 48, of South Salem, in Manhattan federal court with taking bribes from an energy company and a Syracuse developer to wield influence and clout as Cuomo’s right-hand man. The threats are not part of the charged conduct.
Barry Bohrer, Percoco’s lawyer, said in a letter filed with Manhattan U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni that the allegations are “baseless” and irrelevant, urging her to keep them out of the trial because they “serve only to falsely and unfairly portray Percoco as a bully.”
The government, which revealed its plans in a legal notice to the defense, didn’t spell out its justification for raising the threats at trial, using standard language claiming they show “motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, and/or absence of mistake.”
Bohrer said that in emails, however, prosecutors have hinted that they will argue that Percoco is charged with taking bribes to use his muscle in state government, and the threats show that he was willing and able to do that same thing in a different context.
“Unrelated ‘threats’ could be used to improperly suggest that Percoco is a bully who regularly throws his weight around; to insinuate that if he bullied some State officials on employment matters he must also have bullied other State officials into taking the alleged official acts,” Bohrer wrote.
A spokesman for acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim declined to comment.