Witness: Cuomo seemed surprised at aide’s financial dealings
NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff testified at a criminal trial Wednesday that the Democrat expressed surprise when a former top aide told him about his financial dealings after a 2016 law enforcement raid on the aide’s home.
Linda Lacewell said at Joseph Percoco’s bribery trial that Percoco spoke to Cuomo by phone after the raid, saying the financial dealings that attracted the interest of investigators had been approved by lawyers before he carried them out.
Lacewell said that as Percoco described his financial dealings on a three-way call, Cuomo said: “What?” She raised her voice, in a tone that expressed surprise, as she conveyed the lone word she quoted the governor as saying.
She said Percoco also told Cuomo that he believed a laptop containing the governor’s financial records such as tax returns also were among items taken from his home.
“He was very much trusted by the governor including handling such sensitive matters,” Lacewell said.
Percoco is on trial in Manhattan federal court on charges that he accepted over $300,000 in bribes, most of it in the form of a job for his wife, in return for help he provided three businessmen who are co-defendants with him. All have pleaded not guilty.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis Echenberg and Percoco’s defense lawyer, Barry Bohrer, both seemed interested in using Lacewell’s testimony to illustrate the tight relationship between Cuomo and Percoco before Percoco was arrested.
“They had a very close relationship,” Lacewell said as she described daily contact between the governor and the fact that they had adjacent offices in New York City.
Sometimes, her testimony seemed to aid the defense, like when she smiled as she identified Percoco in court and when she agreed that Percoco would protect Cuomo from political adversaries and hecklers at events. She agreed Percoco aided Cuomo personally, politically and with tax matters.
But the government seemed to get what it wanted when she described seeing Percoco continue to use his government office like he was still a state employee when he was running Cuomo’s re-election campaign in 2014. Or when she recalled telling Percoco about rules limiting what he could do to help someone with state agencies for two years after leaving the government.
She also said he refused raises to junior staff because “he thought public service was its own reward and they shouldn’t be pushing for raises.”
Since Cuomo, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, is unlikely to testify, Lacewell may be as close to Cuomo as witnesses will get at the trial. She continues her testimony on Thursday.