Saturday, March 31, 2018

Buffalo News: Talk about 'ziti' in Percoco trial rebutted by attacks on star witness


Talk about 'ziti' in Percoco trial rebutted by attacks on star witness

NEW YORK – In the end, prosecutors in the Joseph Percoco trial wanted to talk about ziti – the code term the longtime confidant of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used to allegedly describe the bribe money he got over the years.
But pasta wasn't on the minds of defense lawyers.
They spent their afternoon Tuesday in closing arguments on hours of attempts to discredit the prosecution’s star witness – former lobbyist Todd Howe, whose credibility was called into question even before he was arrested during the middle of his testimony a few weeks ago.
One defense lawyer, Stephen Coffey, even mocked Howe’s claim that he had a revelatory moment about telling the truth to prosecutors in 2016 as they were in the midst of their high-profile corruption investigation that has unearthed insights about Albany and state government.
“Todd Howe is going to come to Jesus,’’ Coffey said, as he then prepared to predict what Jesus Christ was going to someday say to Howe.       Artwork by Aggie Whelan Kenny
“Sustained,’’ U.S. District Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni said as she cut off Coffey, when prosecutors objected.
Six weeks into the trial of Percoco and three executives accused of allegedly bribing the former Cuomo adviser in exchange for government favors, prosecutors and defense lawyers spent all day Tuesday giving closing arguments to a case that could have sweeping implications for its sister case – the Buffalo Billion trial expected to start in June in the same courtroom.
The summations will continue Wednesday and the jury is expected to get the case possibly on Thursday.
Within seconds of opening his summation to the jury in a Manhattan federal courtroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zhou quoted from a Percoco email: “Where the hell is the ziti?”
It was a reference – borrowed, as noted several times in the trial, from "The Sopranos" TV show – to more than $300,000 in payments allegedly steered Percoco's way from a Syracuse development firm and an energy company with a power plant interest before the state.
“This is not how honest and honorable public servants talk. This is how criminals talk,’’ Zhou told jurors in his nearly three-hour summation.
The trial ended with a split verdict on March 13th. 

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