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Former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo convicted of bribery and fraud

Former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo convicted of bribery and fraud
Joseph Percoco, former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, leaves Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday after being found guilty on three counts and not guilty on four counts in his trial for bribery. (Marcus Santos / TNS)

Jurors convicted a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of federal bribery and fraud charges Tuesday in a trial that further exposed the state Capitol's culture of backroom deal-making.

Joseph Percoco, who Cuomo once said was like a brother to him, faces up to 20 years in prison for his conviction on conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and soliciting bribes. Jurors who deliberated for three weeks acquitted Percoco of extortion and one of the bribery charges he faced.

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The jury also convicted one of the businessmen charged with paying the bribes, Steven Aiello, an executive at a Syracuse, N.Y.-area development company, Cor Development. A second executive with the company, Joseph Gerardi, was acquitted on all charges.

The jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared in the case of a fourth defendant, energy company executive Peter Galbraith Kelly. The U.S. attorney's office didn't immediately say whether it would seek a retrial.

The trial put a harsh spotlight on the attempts of several companies to gain influence with the Cuomo administration.

Prosecutors say Percoco and his family accepted more than $300,000 in bribes. They say that included a $35,000 payment from Cor Development to secure the governor's help redeveloping a state-owned tract of land in Syracuse known as the Inner Harbor, and a $90,000-a-year job for Percoco's wife from Kelly, a former executive at Competitive Power Ventures, to clear hurdles with the state to build power plants.

Speaking outside the courthouse following the verdict, Percoco's lawyer, Barry Bohrer, said that there was "inconsistency in the verdict" and that he would explore appeal options.

Though Cuomo was not accused of wrongdoing, testimony also painted an unflattering picture of the inner workings of his office.

There was testimony about administration officials using private email addresses to conduct state business in secret and about how Percoco continued to work out of a state office even after he was supposed to have left government to lead Cuomo's 2014 reelection campaign.

Cuomo, who is regarded as a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said he respects the jury's decision.

Cuomo said that while he is sad for Percoco's young daughters, "who will have to deal with this pain," there's "no tolerance for any violation of the public trust."

The trial was the latest in a long line of corruption allegations to emerge from Albany in recent years. More than 30 state lawmakers have left office facing allegations of misconduct since 2000.

Two former powerful leaders in the state, ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, are scheduled to be retried on corruption charges this year after early convictions were thrown out.

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