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Cuomo’s ex-aide Joseph Percoco pressed for state funds for project, emails show

Joseph Percoco pushed for money for a New York film hub, a state budget official testifies at the ex-aide’s corruption trial.

Joseph Percoco leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan

Joseph Percoco leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s former confidante Joseph Percoco pressed state budget officials in 2015 to free up funds for a project of two Syracuse developers accused of bribing him, according to emails introduced Thursday at Percoco’s corruption trial in Manhattan federal court.

Michael Novakowsky, a budget division unit chief, said Percoco pushed for the release of funds for a central New York film hub being developed by COR Development in both a phone call and a series of emails calling for the division to get money that “can be processed done asap.”

As Cuomo’s deputy executive secretary and a member of his senior staff, Percoco’s request got special handling, Novakowsky said. “It meant we would pay close and immediate attention,” he testified. “It generally meant we would attend to those matters in an expeditious way.”

The government has accused Percoco, 49, of South Salem, of taking $35,000 in bribes from two principals of COR through lobbyist Todd Howe, a cooperating witness. He also is charged with doing favors for Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company that hired his wife.

Percoco’s lawyer said he received the COR money in 2014, after quitting government to run Cuomo’s campaign, in return for legitimate work, and that actions he took after returning to government were part of his job and not a corrupt quid pro quo.

Earlier Thursday, Cuomo chief of staff Linda Lacewell completed a day of testimony in which she detailed Percoco’s powerful role and closeness to Cuomo, and described a phone conversation he had with the governor on the morning the former aide’s house was raided by the FBI.

Leaving court, Lacewell was asked if she thought the trial would hurt Cuomo’s campaign for re-election. “Not at all,” she said.

The trial will resume on Monday.

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